Bookshops in Ireland are set to reopen in June as part of an easing of lockdown measures introduced during the Covid-19 crisis. The Bookseller reported that, under plans released by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, small retail outlets that can observe social distancing measures will be allowed to open June 8, while other non-essential retailers will be able to open again June 29, with shopping centers to follow August 10.
John Keane, chair of Bookselling Ireland, said: "With around 40% of bookshops closed for all business and the remainder partially open--mainly doing mail order--and trading at an average of 20% of what their normal turnover would be, it's encouraging to see the light at the end of the tunnel for bookshops.
"We know that most booksellers are planning a phased reopening with shorter opening hours and reduced staff to begin with. We also know that customer and staff safety is paramount, so they will have appropriate plans in place for a secure shopping environment. And we know that the book-loving Irish people love their bookshops and can't wait to reconnect with them when they can."
Dingle Bookshop in Dingle, County Kerry, plans to open June 8. "Having fought off along with other independents the electronic threat of the '80s we are part of the thrilling revival of the walk-in bookshop, making the Irish Times top 30 list last year," said co-owner Camilla Dinkel. "That is our true identity. During the pandemic customers have been faithful to us online, but there is no substitute for the face to face conversation, even though it may be through a plastic screen.
"We appreciate that many people will be cautious about going into shops so our main emphasis once we reopen will be on keeping staff and customers safe through distancing and sanitizing. It won't be hard to lay out a path in our little shop, and until things return to normal we will be able to control the numbers. Our locals are our lifeblood, the more so as we expect very few visitors in Dingle this summer. We can't wait to greet them in person again."
Not everyone will make it though, however. The Bookseller noted that Blessington Book Store in Blessington, County Wicklow, is closing at the end of the month. Owner Janet Hawkins said she had tried her best to keep it going during the lockdown but reopening with social distancing measures would not be viable.
Sales figures for the first week after many German bookstore reopened show "cautious optimism," according to a study done by Media Control for Börsenblatt. The analysis compared results during the week of April 20-26 (week 17 of the year) to the week of February 10-16 (week 7), "an average week" before the pandemic hit. In most German states, bookstores were allowed to open Monday, April 20.
In week 7, the first week of reopening, bookstore sales were 81.5% of what they had been in week 17, and the numbers don't include online sales, which had risen dramatically for bricks-and-mortar bookstores during the shutdown.
In some areas, the news was especially good. For example, in the state of Lower Saxony sales were up 10.9% in the first week of reopening compared to week 7. Börsenblatt commented: "A possible explanation for this uptick is that the shutdown generated new customers who then flocked to bookstores after the lockdown; another explanation could be that when customers finally had the opportunity to browse in bookstores again, this led to impulse buying and multiple purchases."
In addition, sales at bookstores in the first week of reopenings jumped 260% compared to the week before, April 13-19.
The study found that categories with sales increases included children's books and young adult fiction as well as humanities, art and music--and even philosophy. Not surprisingly, travel books had a substantial loss in sales.
In India, after witnessing the "heavy rush outside bookstores after lockdown relaxations, the Chandigarh administration has now decided to permit owners to deliver books at the doorsteps," the Hindustan Times reported.
"The decision of delivering books at home was taken to prevent overcrowding at the stores," a spokesperson of the Union Territory administration said. "Meanwhile, the administration has also cautioned parents to ensure precautionary measures such as sanitizing books before giving them to kids while availing home delivery services."
"It's kind of scary to think about what will happen in the future. It's not a time I ever want to repeat again," Janet Hoy, co-owner of the City & the City Books, Hamilton, Ont., told the Welland Tribune as she and partner Tim Hanna marked their first year in business amid the Covid-19 pandemic. "This is not how we wanted our first year to end. To lose it (the store) would be devastating.... We're working 75% harder for 75% less money. It's just a whole different way of doing work that is a lot more stressful."
The bookstore shuttered March 24 when the province announced the closure of all non-essential services. Ineligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, they had no choice but to reopen. Hoy runs the shop virtually, taking orders over the phone, through social media and by e-mail. The books are then picked up curbside or delivered by bike.
They are still waiting to see if they will qualify for a rent relief program announced by the federal government April 24. On the positive side, she noted that "the community has been incredible. People have been so great."