Edinburgh-based wholsesaler Bookspeed has closed its business during the coronavirus pandemic while Baker & Taylor has closed its Bicester facility for everything other than “urgent and essential matters”.
In a letter to staff from Bookspeed 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.
It stated: “Whilst we have been able to set up remote working for all our office-based staff, this is simply not an option for our colleagues who work in our warehouses.
“Given the critical role that staying at home and reducing in-person contact has to play in mitigating the severity of the Covid-19 outbreak, we have made the decision to close the business until further notice.”
The letter stated: “This decision has not been taken lightly. We are aware that some of our customers, predominantly those who trade online, are still busy and looking for stock. We are deeply sorry that we will not be able to continue supporting you over the next period, but our conscience and values as a business dictate that we must be considerate corporate citizens and not put our people at risk.”
Bookspeed added all its employees would receive full pay for March and April, supported by the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Senior figures will monitor the situation and reopen “as soon as it safe to do so”, the company said.
Lewis Dawson told The Bookseller: "It is our collective responsibilities as citizens to do everything we can to slow the spread of the virus which in turn will save lives and help support our NHS. We decided to close to protect our people and their families, our communities, and the health service."
The wholesaler, which specialises in books, games and stationery, supplies more than 1,500 retailers across the UK and Ireland and employs almost 50 people at its offices and warehouses.
Baker & Taylor said it had reached its decision “to abide by the UK governments directives and to not risk the health of staff, our families and the general public”. The Bicester facility will remain closed until restrictions are lifted with staff working from home and remaining contactable.
The firm said: “With the facility closed we are not taking deliveries at present, though will meet very unique customer needs where appropriate. We are not cancelling any orders as we will require all for when restrictions are lifted. We are planning for a swift and exciting return when this situation is over.
“We are monitoring developments and may adjust our arrangements as things become clearer. Its notable that there remains a lot of activity in public spaces not all of which appears in line with the guidance. We hope are actions are seen as a means of not contributing to this.
“These are unprecedented times. We have all never seen anything like it. We remain calm and aim abide by the UK government directives so that the worst of this can be overcome as soon as is possible. We will overcome this and Baker & Taylor UK and its truly amazing team members will be back stronger than ever.”
The announcements come despite distribution operations by Macmillan and HarperCollins, alongside wholesalers Bertrams and Gardners, remaining operational.
Gardners announced today it is moving to re-engineer credit terms for independents, "in a bid to preserve liquidity in bookselling and ensure the viability of indie bookshops as we navigate and ultimately emerge from this predicament.” The move followed discussions with the Booksellers Association about how to support indies during the crisis.
In a further statement (24th March), the firm said it had received clarification from its local MP that the business was able to stay open.
“We are a key supplier of education, health, academic and general books to the entire book industry via schools, independent booksellers and online retailers,” the company said. “We also provide direct to consumer services for a large number of major online retailers, and this service is vital for supporting the government’s policy of 'stay at home' and we are being proactively encouraged to expand this service.
“Gardners offer fulfilment to tens of thousands of retailers across the UK and also internationally, by being able to continue, we are able to keep these businesses alive meaning they in-turn can continue to trade, keep their staff employed and their businesses viable.”
The company said, from 12th March, it had implemented strict staff segregation throughout the business, dividing the company into different groups, and enforcing an infrastructure that meant none of these groups would overlap and would work in different sections of the building. Cleaning has also been increased substantially and some staff are able to work from home.
Gardners said: “We have been following government guidelines every step of the way, and have been enforcing social distancing across our entire site. We have also been encouraging staff to help further by taking responsibility for their own social distancing and to be aware of their own surroundings. Within the warehouse we have ensured all workstations have at least two metres of separation, workers stay with a single piece of machinery to avoid crossing, and provided with cleaning materials to maintain the cleanliness levels of their stations.
“We have been working ahead of the curve during this challenging time and will continue to adhere to government guidelines and we will continue to adapt to this ever fluid situation. “