The Booksellers Association (BA) has warned the easing of Covid-19 restrictions will have “complex repercussions” for booksellers and has joined other retail trade bodies seeking clarity from the government over the easing of safety measures.
Waterstones and a number of indies told The Bookseller this week they are planning to continue some level of Covid-19 safety measures, despite the government’s scrapping of all mandatory precautions in England, including face masks, from 19th July.
Meryl Halls, m.d. of the BA, said indies should be able to choose how they operate, according to how safe staff and customers feel, and the BA wants to dispel any confusion around legal issues that could arise from the regulations being misinterpreted. A key priority for booksellers, she said, is avoiding the “policing” of customers in store.
She said: “Easing restrictions around mask wearing and social distancing has complex repercussions which will impact booksellers in England, and we are seeking clarity, along with other retail trade bodies, from the government following its announcement on Monday, and will liaise with booksellers in the other nations as changes occur there too.”
Halls added: “Many booksellers have expressed a cautious welcome to the easing of restrictions, which will help with customer communications and in-person events, but the majority of booksellers are not planning on completely removing masks and in-store protections, and are consulting with their staff to get to a local solution. Their key priority is keeping staff safe and confident in the workplace.
“The most important thing is that booksellers have the ability to decide for their own context how to operate – many want to continue encouraging mask wearing and social distancing, at their discretion, and we want to avoid scenarios where booksellers are required to police public behaviour. We’re seeking clarity on behalf of our members on any legal issues arising from the removal of these regulations.”
Halls will also be reminding its members of the Shop Kind Campaign, which urges the government to take more notice of violent crime against retailers. The trade body has sent a letter to the government, signed by 100 retailers, to draw its attention to the problem.
“ As Covid safety regulations change, the government needs to be clear in its support for businesses, providing guidelines that are sensible and clearly understood, and which lay out what good behaviour from shoppers looks like,” Halls said.
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