German booksellers will be permitted to reopen their shops from next Monday (20th April).
The measure was announced last night as part of a package of tentative steps taken by the government and the 16 individual German states to loosen the lockdown introduced on 21st March. While all brick-and-mortar retailers will be allowed to resume trading, as long as their selling space does not exceed 800 square metres, the restriction in size does not apply to booksellers.
This announcement will be greeted with relief especially by the book chains. Following the decision by the Austrian government to allow retailers up to 400 square metres in size to reopen after Easter, market leader Thalia had voiced its concerns and demanded a level playing field at least in Germany. In a statement, c.e.o. Michael Busch had argued that larger bookshops are better suited for customers to keeping the required distance of 1.50 metres.
Before they open, booksellers and retailers in general are required to set up thorough precautionary health and hygiene measures. Customers are asked to keep their distance and to wear facemasks, although these are not yet mandatory. The trade co-operation EK/servicegroup which also works with bookshops recommends a number of measures such as limited entry, with one customer per 10 square metres as a rule of thumb.
The trade organization Börsenverein des deutschen Buchhandels welcomed the decision. C.e.o. Alexander Skipis called it a necessary step in the right direction, but he also said further government aid will be needed to absorb the medium and long-term consequences of the coronavirus crisis in the industry. According to the association, the book industry as a whole stands to lose about half a billion euros per month while stores are closed. Latest figures published by the trade paper buchreport together with Media Control show that brick-and-mortar booksellers have lost on average between two thirds and three quarters of their weekly sales.