Scottish booksellers welcome 'sensible' precautions as Waterstones encourages masks

Scottish booksellers welcome 'sensible' precautions as Waterstones encourages masks

Scottish booksellers say First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to keep some Covid-19 restrictions in place, including mask wearing and social distancing, is “pretty sensible", as Waterstones said it would still encourage customers to wear face coverings in English stores.

Sturgeon confirmed this week that Scotland will move to Level 0 of her government’s five-tier system of coronavirus controls on 19th July, but with continued restrictions capping numbers meeting both indoors and outdoors, one-metre social distancing in place and the wearing of face masks still mandatory.

Her announcement comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government intends to lift all remaining restrictions in England, including scrapping enforced social distancing and mask wearing on 19th July, although it is recommended people still wear face coverings in crowded areas.

In response to his announcement, Waterstones said it would still encourage the wearing of face masks and social distancing in store. In a tweet that caused a backlash from anti-mask wearers, but support from other shoppers, it said: “Following the lifting of restrictions on 19th July across England, we will observe new government guidance. Given our enclosed browsing environment, we encourage our customers to wear face masks and observe social distancing, respecting the safety of staff and fellow book lovers.”

Speaking to The Bookseller, Marie Moser, owner of The Edinburgh Bookshop, said she and staff are feeling “a healthy level” of positivity about Sturgeon's announcement.

She said: “The feeling I’m getting is the announcement is really reasonable — [Covid-19] hasn't gone away, the autumn flu season will be upon us too. The measured approach feels right, and Sturgeon has looked after the bookshops so far. It’s going in the right direction, business is good, customers are being good — being safe benefits retail in the long term.”

Marjory Marshall, who has run The Bookmark in the highland town of Grantown-on-Spey for nearly 14 years, said the extended measure are "pretty sensible" and will help to make her customers feel safe, many of whom are over 60.

“Continuing with face masks is probably a good idea,” she told The Bookseller. “I’ll also make sure there’s hand sanitiser at the door — I want people who are probably a bit more cautious to feel safe enough to shop. The virus it too variable to abandon [all measures], and you need to protect your customers.”

Rosamund de la Hey, owner of The Mainstreet Trading Company in St Boswells in the Scottish Borders is grateful for the clarity the announcement brings, and anticipates the continued safety measures will benefit the shop’s future planned events.

She said: “As a retailer and in particular a hospitality venue, I’m relieved that the rules are clear on wearing face masks. This will make it easier for our team to manage the shopfloor. Regarding the changes to numbers, as I understand it, this doesn’t yet allow us to return to our normal capacity in the café or wider shop, so it’s unlikely to have much impact for now. It will, however, be critical for our optimistic live events programme, due to start on 19th August.

“With the big spike in Scottish infection rates, we have been hit quite badly by the need for staff to self-isolate. The changes for those double-vaccinated on 9th August can’t come soon enough.”