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Waterstones, along with other booksellers in the UK, opened its doors on 15 June, after three months of lockdown. The stores now have hand sanitiser at their entrances and a member of staff reminding customers to wash their hands, maintain social distancing and place browsed items on a marked trolley so the books can be quarantined for 72 hours.
Kate Skipper, chief operating officer of Waterstones, reported the first day had “gone well” with customers full of “really positive feedback”, after what has been “a long 12 weeks” for the chain.
“We’re very happy to have finally reopened the doors to books,” she said. “We are delighted to welcome back into our bookshops both booksellers and customers. It’s been a long 12 weeks. The first day has gone well, reflecting similar patterns to those seen in Ireland and Europe. Feedback has been really positive with both the safety measures and new ways of retailing working well. It’s been incredibly heartening listening to booksellers recommending books to our customers again. It feels like a good first step towards some kind of normality as we look forward to the reopenings in Scotland and Wales.”
The British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak visited Waterestones in Victoria, central London over the weekend, one of thousands of shops opening their doors for the first time after a long shutdown. He said: “From Monday, shops selling books, clothes, and electronics are able to open for business for the first time in more than two months, as part of our plan to gradually and safely reopen the economy. There are nearly 7,000 high streets across the country, each providing a valuable service to their community. They will be vital in helping kickstart the economy as we recover from the virus.”
Among independents, Georgia Duffy of Imagined Things in Harrogate in Yorkshire, said: “I think Waterstones’ [policy] is ludicrous, to be honest, and it’s giving the impression that the books on shelves are somehow not safe. Nothing you buy can be guaranteed to be virus free. They’re saying paper is quite a low risk for transmission and we are being very careful, but at the end of the day we can’t sterilise the books … I think most people are going to be very happy to be in the bookshop.”
Certainly all booksellers are agreed that it is an immense relief to be opening their doors again and beginning the long road back to some semblance of normality.