// Waterstones staff say their health is at risk as stores stay open
// Shop floor staff say hand sanitiser not provided & they are discouraged from wearing gloves & masks
// Waterstones MD James Daunt last week that there’s been a 17% surge in book sales since the pandemic struck the UK
Waterstones has become the subject of controversy on social media over its decision to keep its high street stores open during the coronavirus pandemic.
The retailer recently revealed it was keeping its chain of bookstores open for customers, as the government ordered all pubs, restaurants, cafes, cinemas, gyms, theatres and leisure centres all over the country to shut down and for Brits to avoid social contact unless absolutely necessary.
Waterstones is one of many retailers that have remained open – except for around 10 sites – despite large numbers of retailers already temporarily shutting down their UK stores even though there is no government-mandated lockdown for the sector specifically.
- Waterstones increases staff wage by 6.2%
- Cath Kidston at risk of being next coronavirus casualty as it urgently seeks buyer
- New Look, H&M, Harrods, Zara join growing list of temporary store closures
Waterstones operates more than 280 bookshops across the UK.
An online statement the retailer said it had closed down all its in-store cafes and suspended all click-and-collect, although home delivery was still in operation, albeit slower than usual due to the soaring demand.
It also said small shops will only allow five customers inside at any one time and larger shops have implemented a two metre social distance measure between the till and waiting customers.
Despite this, Waterstones employees and members of the public have taken to social media to criticise the book retailer’s decision to remain open.
Some employees alleged social distancing measures were not being observed by customers, and that staff had not been provided with hand sanitiser and were being discouraged from wearing face masks or gloves as it would “cause panic”.
Meanwhile, one employee told the Guardian that while administrative staff had been told they could work from home, shop floor – often those earning the least – were required to go into the stores.
Working in @Waterstones today following the lockdown. No hand sanitiser provided, no wipes, no disinfectant, no reduced shop hours, cash still being accepted. We're being told by head office that gloves and masks are not permitted, meanwhile administrative staff…(cont.)
— Kajsa (@kk_liber) March 21, 2020
I am begging my beloved @Waterstones to do the right thing and close. Every single person who comes in is endangering others, including your own staff. In a few days you will have no option but to close. Meantime, do the right thing. You’re better than Wetherspoons. https://t.co/zSBY1ilShz
— Adam Kay (@amateuradam) March 22, 2020
On my way to another full day at #Waterstones today during a pandemic. Still no sanitiser, masks or gloves. We’ll probably get the same e-mail we get every day: “we’re following government advice, no need to close… anyway, great numbers yesterday!”
— who’d have thought? (@mydearthoughts3) March 22, 2020
Doors open in 1.1 hours.
Please DON'T use them.
Please DON'T come in.
We DON'T want to see you (until this is all behind us, when we'd love to see you all).
Please, please use https://t.co/XsyRXIMPpa or phone us instead – we can post books out to you.
— Waterstones Swansea (@swanseastones) March 22, 2020
The news comes after Waterstones managing director James Daunt said last week that pandemic had led to “unprecedented demand” for books, with a 17 per cent increase in sales.
He also called for all bookshops to be kept open as they were a “necessity” for adults and children who were staying home during the pandemic.
“In the behaviour that we’re experiencing at the moment, demonstrably books are a necessity and, frankly, a social support for people that are going to be spending a lot of time in their homes,” he told The Bookseller.
The Retail Gazette has contacted Waterstones for comment, including clarification around support for staff who are self-isolating due to the virus.