Coronavirus live updates: W H Smith closes 60% of shops, Bookspeed closes

Coronavirus live updates: W H Smith closes 60% of shops, Bookspeed closes

W H Smith has closed 60% of its shops today (Tuesday 24th March), following new government advice shutting libraries and all "non-essential" shops. Wholesaler Bookspeed has also closed. This follows the announcement from Waterstones and Blackwell's on Sunday (22nd March) that they will close all their physical bookshops on a temporary basis owing to concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

Latest update: Tuesday March 24th 4.15pm Wholesaler BookSpeed closes operations over coronavirus concerns

Edinburgh-based wholesaler Bookspeed has closed its business during the coronavirus pandemic, saying it is unable protect its warehouse workers with social distancing measures. In a letter to staff from m.d. Lewis Dawson and co-founders Annie Rhodes and Kingsley Dawson, the company said it was “deeply sorry” for clients who needed stock to trade online but the operation would close for the time being. Read the full story here.

Latest update: Tuesday March 24th, 3pm EIBF calls on international governments to support booksellers

The European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) has highlighted that the enforced closure of brick and mortar bookshops amidst the coronavirus crisis puts the book trade in a precarious position, and has appealed to governments worldwide "to remember the importance of books in our society" and provide support, including financial aid. Read the full story here.

Latest update: Tuesday March 24th, 12.00 noon All branches of The Works confirmed closed

The Works has confirmed that all its 540 stores are closed. Trading director Andrea Bennett told The Bookseller: "We chose to close all of our stores at 5pm last night, this decision was made by the senior management team on Sunday night and cascaded to stores yesterday. Our website remains open to ensure we can continue to serve our millions of wonderful customers."
 

Latest update: Tuesday March 24th, 10.30am W H Smith closes 60% of bookshops

W H Smith has said it will now be closing all its stores aside from those designated "essential" But it said around 40% of its outlets would remain open including Post Office branches and hospital stores. Read the full story here.

Latest update: Monday March 23rd, 3.20pm Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival latest for cancellation

The organisers of the Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival, scheduled for June, have joined many others in cancelling their event. Festival chair James Holland said: “We cannot thank everyone enough for all their enormous support of the Festival over the past decade and we are truly sorry it cannot take place this summer, our 10th anniversary year. We are, however, looking into alternative ways of continuing our mission to promote the understanding and enjoyment of history to the widest possible audience, and will, of course, keep everyone updated as and when we have more news

Latest update, Monday March 23rd, 3pm: Trade trio launches fundraiser to help booksellers  

Gayle Lazda from the London Review Bookshop, Picador commissioning editor Kishani Widyaratna and Daunt Books publisher Zeljka Marosevic have launched a fundraiser for booksellers affected by the coronavirus crisis. Within a few hours of launching, the page had already amassed over £2,000 in donations. Full story here.

 

In a statement on its site at 5 p.m on Sunday., Waterstones said: "To help prevent spread of the coronavirus, and to protect the wellbeing of our customers and staff, sadly Waterstones will temporarily close its doors by the close of trade Monday 23rd March until further notice."

Over the weekend staff had expressed serious concerns about their own and their customers' safety on social media. Authors including Adam Kay came out in support of them on Twitter, with Kay tweeting: "I am begging my beloved Waterstones to do the right thing and close. Every single person who comes in is endangering others, including your own staff."

Daunt had earlier insisted that the chain would remain open, but later in the day changed his advice after it became clear that booksellers did not feel comfortable coming into stores, but felt obliged to. M.d. James Daunt told The Bookseller: "We've been trying to work out as the days unfold whether there really are some staff who are working who are uncomfortable and unwilling, and we've been very clear throughout that nobody should be working if they find it difficult for whatever reason. There's an indication that some people are coming to work out of duty. and we need to work through this and determine if it's the case."

In an email to staff widely leaked online, Daunt said that most would now be placed on “furlough” whereby the government guarantees 80% of their wage. Daunt said the alternative would have been a “wide redundancy”. No business can continue to pay its employees when its source of revenue disappears, he said, before adding: “These are desperate times.”

Daunt told The Bookseller: "We are also recognising that today a number of other retailers have made a similar decision [to close]—Primark, there's a whole sea of them—and we felt we need to take a time out at the very least. We still do continue to think we are offering an extraordinarily valuable social service, and if the government determines that we are one of the essential services, once we are absolutely certain we can open our shops safely with booksellers who are willing to be there, we will do so. If all shops are obliged to close, we will follow whatever the government determines."

Meanwhile in a message to customers and booksellers earlier in the afternoon, Blackwell's president Toby Blackwell and c.e.o. David Prescott also announced the temporary closure of all bookshops owing to the coronavirus outbreak. All Blackwell's and Heffers stores will close at end of day on Sunday 22nd March.

The duo said the decision followed "141 years of providing excellent service to our valued customers across the country, including through two world wars".

"We have kept our bookshops open as long as possible, because we know how important a role they play to you and your local communities. However, the safety of both our booksellers and customers has to be put first," Blackwell and Prescott wrote.

"Although we may be closing our shop doors, we still want to be your first port of call for books, stationery and games. Therefore, you can still shop with us online at Blackwells.co.uk. We have been working hard during the last week to ensure that our online operations can continue to deliver directly to both existing valued customers and also to those who might be new to shopping at Blackwell's.

"Take care of yourselves, your family and those around you during the uncertain times we face in the coming weeks. We look forward to helping you buy books to either banish boredom or to find out more about what's happening. We hope to see you back in our shops as soon as we feel it is safe to re-open."

W H Smith stores remain open, with hand sanitiser provided to store teams, enhanced cleaning of stores and self-checkouts, gloves available for order from its distribution centre, and customers barred from making purchases with cash. Social distancing guidelines have been introduced and all third-party vouchers have been suspended.

A spokesperson said: "We are very proud of our colleagues, who are doing an outstanding job in serving our customers with key products, such as educational materials, food, drinks and newspapers. W H Smith also provides vital services such as the Post Office, and serving NHS staff in our hospital stores. We have served our communities for over 227 years and we continue to support our customers during this challenging time.
 
"Our key priority is the health and wellbeing of colleagues and customers.  We have introduced additional measures to keep everyone safe and supported and all staff have been reminded of the company benevolent fund at this time.  We will continue to monitor and follow government and PHE [Public Health England] advice very closely.”

The retailer is offering a 20% discount for NHS employees in its hospital stores.

On Friday (20th March) chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a major programme of support for businesses, paying the wages of millions of Britons to keep them in jobs amid the fall-out from the coronavirus crisis. Businesses will be able to claim back 80% of the salaries of workers kept on the payroll where they would otherwise be laid off.