The U.K. Booksellers Association has written to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak in an attempt to draw the government's attention to the challenges facing booksellers during the Covid-19 crisis, as well as the need for support when lockdown restrictions are eased. The letter is signed by BA head of policy & public affairs Laura McCormack.
According to a statement from the BA: "Many booksellers have seen their turnover fall by over 80% since lockdown began. While some have been able to come to short-term arrangements with individual landlords, this approach is not sufficient long term for the sector. The Booksellers Association joins the British Retail Consortium (BRC) in calling for a Government scheme allowing retail spaces to be furloughed, as seen in other European countries. This would operate on a sliding basis, providing support to those hardest hit by drops in turnover, not just in terms of bookshops but extending to all areas of the sector, including warehouses and distribution centres, to ensure the industry's survival.
"Supply is as key to the bookselling industry as ever and the Booksellers Association are calling on the government to ensure that the book trade supply chain remains operational throughout this crisis. This would include guidance and assistance from Government around access to health and safety advice and PPE.
"While the re-opening on bookshops will undoubtedly be a great support for local communities, the Booksellers Association has requested that booksellers are given adequate notice by the government of their ability to re-open. This would allow bookshops to prepare, both in terms of stock and the safety measures that will need to be implemented as lockdown is eased.
"Following the easing of lockdown restrictions, consumer confidence will take time to grow, and footfall in bookshops may not return to normal levels for some time. The Booksellers Association calls on the Government to ensure that help under the Job Retention Scheme is not withdrawn prematurely, and to consider the possibility of 'part-furloughing' so that booksellers can have staff members return to work on reduced hours while demand increases.
"As lockdown is lifted, bookshops will face new challenges around their physical spaces, bearing in mind the restricted space available to many bookshops and the physical nature of browsing. The Booksellers Association requests that detailed guidance on PPE and safety messages is provided to retailers to ensure they are kept safe, and that a public campaign is launched by the Government to ensure that consumers are aware of distancing measures being implemented by retailers."
What the BA is Doing
The BA has also outlined what steps it has been taking during the pandemic. "The Booksellers Association has continued its support for booksellers during the COVID-19 crisis, encouraging bookshops to promote their ongoing work using the #ChooseBookshops hashtag, offering members help via regular update bulletins with trade and government advice, through their free Business Support Helpline, the free Retail Trust Wellbeing and Counselling service, a range of online events and gatherings, such as Facebook Live sessions and Zoom bookseller coffee mornings, as well as their BAseline benchmarking programme, a member subscription rebate, vigorous advocacy for bookselling within the trade, to government and in the media, as well as pledging £30,000 to The Book Trade Charity's Booksellers Hardship Fund."
A version of this story first appeared in BookBrunch.