Bookshops should be classed as essential, Waterstones says

The Booksellers Association Waterstones James Daunt
Bookshops are open everywhere in the UK except England, which will remain in lockdown until December 2
// The Booksellers Association calls on government to classify bookshops as essential retailers
// Waterstones CEO James Daunt said it is unjustified that other retailers that sell books like WHSmith and grocers remain open
// Waterstones has invested significantly in making shops safe to operate

The Booksellers Association has appealed to the government to reopen England’s bookshops during the second lockdown, as other retailers that sell books like WHSmith and grocers remain open.

Waterstones chief executive James Daunt pointed to the fact that bookshops have been designated as essential in other countries.

In a letter to government ministers, Booksellers Association managing director Meryl Halls described bookshops as “lanterns of civilisation and, for many, beacons of hope”.


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Daunt said: “It’s not really very helpful when we all go bust and the big guys are going to be ok. It’s ridiculous, and it’s a tragedy.”

Waterstones shops closed on March 23 after some of the chain’s booksellers said they felt at risk in store.

Daunt said Waterstones has invested significantly in making shops safe to operate.

“Closing us while most of our neighbours are open still, including in many of our locations, literally next door to a WHSmith selling identical products to us but because they label themselves as newsagents they’re open, it’s absolutely absurd,” he said.

“Classifying bookshops as essential is slightly more subtle than saying, ‘I think that people will die if they don’t read a book’.

“They will if you don’t feed them, so it’s not essential in that respect. But it’s completely ridiculous and counter to all of the evidence to close us.”

Meanwhile, Halls told the government that keeping bookshops closed while allowing other retailers who sell books to remain open was “potentially ruinous commercially and is also morally problematic”.

“Our members are prevented from opening, yet see garden centres and food shops selling books, when bookshops are quite clearly the best places to sell books to consumers at this crucial time of year,” she said.

“Their livelihoods and those of their staff are already in jeopardy from the first lockdown, and their chances of survival into 2021 would be much improved by having a solid Christmas sales period.”

Bookshops are open everywhere in the UK except England, which will remain in lockdown until December 2.

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