BA urges government support over 'severe' impact of new lockdown

BA urges government support over 'severe' impact of new lockdown

The Booksellers Association has warned the effect of a new lockdown could be “severe” and has called for government to support retailers.

A fresh lockdown in England, lasting until at least mid-February, came into force today (5th January), with non-essential stores forced to close again and people urged to stay at home. The new restrictions follow previous announcements that had already closed bookshops in Tier 4 areas of the country.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement came after Scotland announced a full lockdown for the mainland, which came into force at midnight and lasts at least until the end of January. Non-essential shops had already been closed since Boxing Day, and people are only allowed to leave home for reasons such as buying food or medicine and taking exercise.

Elsewhere, Northern Ireland is currently in a six-week lockdown which began on Boxing Day, while Wales also imposed one across the country just before Christmas, with restrictions under review every three weeks.

Meryl Halls, m.d. of the BA, said the ability for shops to still offer click and collect, alongside online operations, would be vital as many tried to fill a “gaping hole” in their finances left by the pandemic.

She said: “Booksellers understand entirely the challenges to public health represented by Covid, and have a keenly-felt duty of care for their staff and their customers – as well as themselves – so they are supportive of all measures to curb the spread of the new variant of coronavirus. However, the economic impact on retail and livelihoods of another extended lockdown could be severe and the BA, on behalf of its members, urges the government to continue all the support for retailers previously available."

She added: “Bookshops have reinvented themselves throughout lockdowns and will do so again. The ability to continue click and collect in most areas is a welcome extra opportunity to keep selling books, and many bookshops have developed fully functional websites of their own, as well as partnering with third parties such as Bookshop.org, to create a high quality online offer. This will only become more important as lockdowns extend. 

“We urge booksellers to take care of themselves and their staff, and we know that booksellers are set up to run their click and collect operations responsibly and safely. This period is traditionally the quietest part of a bookseller’s year so there is some comfort in that, but there is a gaping hole in the 2020 numbers for many bookshops, and they need to be able to keep trading to recoup those losses.”