Coronavirus: Waterstones faces backlash over decision to keep stores open

Coronavirus: Waterstones faces backlash over decision to keep stores open
Waterstones operates more than 280 bookshops across the UK.
// 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 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.

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.

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  1. So what is the difference between Waterstones staff and Tesco’s staff? One lot of staff moans the other lot get’s on with it!

  2. If the staff at Waterstones or any other retail store have such a problem with working during the spread of a virus that is still unproven to be any worse than seasonal flu then simply replace them with temp staff who are still more than happy to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in! This county has gone in to blind panic over a virus that is no more dangerous than several that come, and go, every year! Have a word with yourselves, people and please take a reality check! There’s one reason for all of the media frenzy surrounding Covid19….scary headlines sell newspapers! Just think, do any of you actually personally know somebody who has keeled over and died from this “terrifying pandemic” Take it for what it is, Governments looking to divert attention away from REAL issues and problems that people should actually be concerned about!

  3. Get a grip on reality people. This “terrifying pandemic” has killed less people day on day than the seasonal flu we see come, and go, every year! This country has proved that we have no ability to cope without blind panic over something like this. God help us if ever we encounter something we serious along the Ebola lines as if that happens then we are well and truly SCREWED!


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