Book World closing all 45 stores, including Shawano

Leader Photo by Greg Mellis The Shawano Book World at 134 S. Main St. will close its doors by early next year, along with 44 other stores in the retail chain. Liquidation of inventory is already underway.

After 26 years as a popular staple of downtown Shawano, Book World will close its doors at some point after the first of the year.

The company announced this week that it will shutter all 45 of its stores, including 20 in Wisconsin.

No specific date was set, other than early 2018, but all of the stores, including the Shawano location at 134 S. Main St., have already begun liquidating their inventories with steep discounts.

The local store employs four people. The staff was not at liberty to comment to the media about the closing.

Mark Dupont, Book World’s senior vice president, said in a statement the closings are the result of changing consumer habits.

“The recent national shift in the retail marketplace towards e-commerce has triggered the loss of vital mall anchor stores and a downward spiral in customer counts, reducing sales to a level that will no longer sustain our business,” he wrote.

“Having worked so very hard for more than 40 years, you can well understand how devastating this is for us and everyone involved with Book World,” the company’s statement read. “We tried to keep Book World afloat, and to be successful, but that was not meant to be.”

Book World, and its 60-year-old parent company, Bpdi Corp., a book and magazine wholesaler, is headquartered in Appleton. The company’s owner, Bill Streur, opened the first Book World store in Rhinelander in 1976.

It eventually became the fourth-largest book store chain in the country with stores not only in Wisconsin but Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota and Missouri.

The stores sell not only books but puzzles, toys, games, magazines, trading cards and other merchandise.

Several downtown Shawano business owners expressed their disappointment at losing Book World, a store they said drew foot traffic to Main Street and was one of the few downtown stores that kept extended evening and weekend hours.

The news comes while both the city and the Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce are in the midst of developing a branding campaign for the downtown and a vision for long-term redevelopment.

“It’s an absolute shame,” said Mayor Jeanne Cronce. “They provided a wonderful service for our citizens. People stopped in there on a regular basis.”

Cronce also said it was unfortunate have yet another vacant building downtown, but she hoped it could be filled as soon as possible.

Cronce said she was in the store the day the employees learned of the closing.

“It came as a shock to everyone,” she said. “They had no clue it was coming.”

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Nancy Smith said the store will be missed.

“It was a unique, small business and it will leave a big hole downtown,” she said.

Smith agreed with the company’s assessment that the trend toward shopping online has been a challenge, not only for Book World but for all retailers.

“It’s an issue for all businesses, large and small,” she said. “They will need to learn how to adapt and compete.”

She said that issue also underscored the need for the efforts being taken by the city and the chamber to re-brand and revitalize the downtown.

“The downtown is looking at ways to become more of a gathering space and entertainment space,” she said. “That’s the direction we’ll need to go.”

Smith said that even as more people shop online, there is a competing trend that the downtown could take advantage of.

“There’s a trend toward people wanting to get out and interact with people,” she said. “The downtown had an opportunity to become a space for that.”