HMV owner: Waterstones quarantining books “not possible”

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HMV owner: Waterstones quarantining books
While there is government guidance in place, the different approaches taken by Waterstones and HMV show that specific measures will vary from store to store.
// HMV boss says Waterstones’ plans to quarantine books & CDs each time they are touched is impractical & impossible
// Waterstones says quarantining measures for books have been “working quite well” in Europe & the US.
// Both retailers started to welcome back customers in-store from today

Quarantining books and CDs each time they are touched is impractical and impossible, the owner of HMV said, as he insisted use of hand sanitiser is the best way to guarantee the “thrill” of browsing remains.

Waterstones has pledged to isolate thumbed-through publications for 72 hours, but HMV boss Doug Putman said while that is a “nice goal” it was not realistic and would mean having to have a staff member per customer monitoring which products were touched and discarded.

Both retailers are welcoming customers in-store today for the first time in almost three months as lockdown measures in England are eased, allowing all non-essential retailers who can guarantee they are “Covid-secure” to reopen.


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While there is government guidance in place, the different approaches taken by Waterstones and HMV show that specific measures will vary from store to store.

The Waterstones plan sees the use of “browsing trollies”, usually placed beside the tills, where customers can set down a book they have leafed through but decided not to buy.

Those items will then be stored away for three days “until any threat from coronavirus transmission has been eliminated”, Waterstones said.

However Putman, whose entertainment stores in the US and Canada have already reopened, said while HMV had initially considered isolating the music, films and games it sells, they concluded it was not possible.

“You’re setting up yourself for something that is not possible to do,” he told the PA news agency.

“I mean, you can’t watch every person in the store, unless you have a personal shopper with each person.

“And, not that I’m trying to discredit what they’re (Waterstones) saying or trying to do, but we’ve gone through this in Canada and the US, and we’ve had similar retailers make similar claims.

“And I’ve went in and shopped those stores and watched and picked up books and put them down. And that just doesn’t happen.

“So, it’s a nice goal but I think the better, in our opinion, the better way is to really ask customers to practice super-safe hygiene, to make sure that they’re sanitising when they’re touching. To us, we think that’s the more realistic way to do it.”

HMV customers will be invited to sanitise their hands when they enter any of its 93 stores in England, and it will be “mandatory” to sanitise when flicking through the A to Z section, Putman said.

Like most other retailers, there will be till screens in place and layouts have been changed to enable social distancing.

HMV will also offer the option for customers to drop off a list of items they want which staff will then put together, and a planned “ring and reserve” service allowing them to pick up items ordered earlier that day.

Meanwhile Waterstones chief operating officer Kate Skippe said quarantining measures for books have been “working quite well” in Europe and the US.

“Everyone seems to be adjusting and it seems to be a relatively simple procedure,” she told PA.

She added that customers will not be made to sanitise their hands, but it would become “default” behaviour to do so when customers enter a store and see a sanitiser station.

On Monday 90 per cent of Waterstones’ stores in England will reopen, with in-shop trading in Northern Ireland already having resumed.

While the bookstore chain has a “whole slew of safety measures” in place, Skipper said she was confident their shops can remain “a haven” for people who want to spend time browsing.

with PA Wires

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