Bookshops delighted with December reopening

Bookshops delighted with December reopening

So-called "non-essential" retailers, which include bookshops, will be allowed to reopen when England's lockdown ends on 2nd December, Boris Johnson has announced.

Addressing the House of Commons virtually from Downing Street on Monday afternoon (23rd November), the Prime Minister said England would return to a tougher tiered system of restrictions once the national lockdown ends.

None of the tiers require shops to close. However, even at Tier 1, people are encouraged to minimise travel and work from home where possible. The approach will last until March, with tiers reviewed every two weeks.

The proposals will be voted on by MPs later this week, and details of which areas will be placed in each tier are due to be announced on Thursday. More regions are expected to fall into higher levels this time around, Mr Johnson warned.

Charlie Redmayne, c.e.o of HarperCollins UK, has been highly critical of the decision to go back into lockdown and shut bookstores in the run-up to Christmas. He told The Bookseller: "I’m delighted to see bookshops finally reopening. This three weeks before Christmas is such an important period for them to be trading. There are some fantastic books in the market and I hope people get out into the high street and support their local booksellers."

Nicci Rosengarten, manager of Moon Lane Children's Books & Toys in Ramsgate, said she was excited to reopen again. She said: “Hand-selling and talking about what's so wonderful in the world of children's books is what we are here for and although signing up for Bookshop.org has been a godsend over these last few weeks, we are missing seeing all our customers! I'm sure we won't be alone in feeling nervous knowing that the Covid infection rate is so high in our area, however by taking all the prescribed precautions, together with advice and guidance from the Booksellers Association, 2nd December can't come soon enough."

At Village Books in Dulwich, Hazel Broadfoot said: “We’re delighted to be able to open our doors to customers again. We’ve been very busy through this second lockdown – our local community is showing huge support for local businesses, and we’re actually trading above last year’s figures. We’ve done well with click and collect and with our website, but it’s a tiring process selling books remotely.  And there are so many beautiful books that readers need to see and touch, not to mention it’s awfully tricky to hand-sell through a glass door.”

Broadfoot said Barack Obama's book had been helping enormously with sales but she remained fearful over the next few weeks.

She explained: “Although we’re trading up on last year’s figures at the moment, that will become unsustainable from the weekend when we’re trading against a highly successful local community campaign from last year that we’re unable to stage this year. I don’t think our proper December trading will be achievable until we can let customers in again, and I’m slightly nervous at the effects of limited numbers which we’ve had to do for social distancing."

Ross Bradshaw at Nottingham's Five Leaves Bookshop said he was looking forward to reopening but still expected his online and mail order business to be busy. He said: “So that we keep aware of new stock we've kept our display tables changing over the last month even though only we can see them! But we are looking forward to seeing people again. We think mail order and our online shop will still be busy so we are planning to work shifts - we can only have two people on at any one time due to social distancing- so that we don't fall behind on mail order, and will be open a bit longer than normal, especially on Sundays so we can say to customers to come early or late if you want to shop at a quiet time.”

Mostly Books owner Sarah Dennis said: “Whilst we've received a great deal of support from our customers during this latest lockdown, it would have been incredibly difficult to manage in the build-up to Christmas with our doors shut.  We have so many amazing books in stock and can't wait to have people browsing again.

“This is the busiest time of the year for us and all other bookshops so it's a massive relief to know that we can get back to what we all do best - recommending and selling books.”

Sue Steel, who manages Simply Books in Stockport, said bookshops were as safe as they could be for Christmas shoppers. She said: "It will be very good to reopen. People don’t really linger long in shops and we have all our Covid arrangements in place and it all feels as safe as it can be. Our staff are happy about things too. And, yes, it will definitely help Christmas trading!"