More bookshops to close doors as further areas enter Tier 4

More bookshops to close doors as further areas enter Tier 4

More areas in England will be added to Tier 4 from Boxing Day, with non-essential shops closing their doors, the government has announced.

In a press conference on 23rd December, health secretary Matt Hancock said Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, the parts of Essex not already in tier 4, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire (excluding the New Forest) would be subject to the highest level of restrictions. Some other areas, including Gloucestershire and Cheshire, will be bumped up to Tier 3, while Cornwall and Herefordshire will rise to Tier 2, he said.

The restrictions will come into effect at 12.01 a.m. on Boxing Day.

London, Kent, parts of Essex and Berkshire had already entered Tier 4 on Sunday, requiring all non-essential retailers to shut, although bookshops can still offer a call/click and collect service. Wales has also entered Tier 4, while Scotland will do so from Boxing Day. Northern Ireland will enter a six-week lockdown from Christmas Eve.

Hancock said the new, more infectious, variant of coronavirus was “spreading at a dangerous rate”.

“We simply cannot have the kind of Christmas that we all yearn for,” he said.

Patrick Neale at Jaffe & Neale bookshop in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, said he had mixed feeling about the news. He told The Bookseller: “We just felt that was an air of inevitability about it and it's better that it happens. I'm very conflicted about it because I want us to solve this horrible problem but commercially I didn't want to lose any big trading days. So that will be difficult in that we normally are very busy between Christmas and New Year and certainly the first year of January but we also want to solve this problem and don't want to be part of the problem.”

The business closed its cafe in March because of the first lockdown but kept the book business going throughout the year with a click and collect service. Trade has held up well until now despite having to limit the number of customers due to social distancing. Neale said: “We have been incredibly busy and we haven't had to stop anybody come into the shop but there have been times where we've been close to having to limit the number of people in.”

At Harris & Harris Books in Clare, Suffolk, owner Kate Harris called the development "disappointing but inevitable". She said that being able to continue selling until Christmas Eve would help and that business had been good thanks to hard work on social media. She added: “I will carry on doing safe takeaways or just posting out as I did before [in the earlier lockdowns].”