The Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom & Ireland Limited

BA, Bookselling and Coronavirus: General Steps to Take During the COVID-19 Outbreak

17/03/2020
Government Statements & Lobbying
We await with interest the Chancellor’s further statement at 7pm tonight.   In the meantime,  you will be aware that the Prime Minister yesterday gave his first daily situation update on the progress of COVID. He announced a range of measures designed to slow the progress of the virus. Details of this update can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-statement-on-coronavirus-16-march-2020
 
The government has had significant pushback from the hospitality industry on the ‘guidance’ to not attendance theatres, cafes and restaurants.  The retail industry is lobbying hard too, in anticipation of any potential closure of retail sites.  Though currently, the Government’s announcement does NOT include closure of schools or closure of retail premises.
 
Given the importance of consistency with messaging to government, the BA has made the decision to support the lobbying priorities of the retail industry, while continuing to make our own positions clear through communications with government departments.
 
The British Retail Consortium wrote to the Chancellor yesterday with very specific suggestions for the relief and support required by the retail sector.  I have just participated in a conference call with the BRC, with over 100 retailers large and small, and the BRC will continue to push the following suggestions:
 
- Cancellation of business rates payments for all businesses
- A delay in VAT, excise duty or National Insurance payments
- Bringing forward the import VAT deferment change announced in the Budget to April
- Suspension of the VAT on account scheme
- Reverting to previous Corporation Tax collection timings
- Government funding of statutory sick pay for all retail businesses
- A delay in the uplift to the National Minimum Wage
- The creation of a business continuity insurance fund
- Extending the British Business Bank business continuity loan scheme, as many businesses’ insurance policies will not cover the impact of coronavirus.
 
General Steps to Take During the COVID-19 Outbreak
This list is intended as an aide memoire for members – some of this you will have already done – you can also check our resource page on the BA website here - https://www.booksellers.org.uk/industryinfo/industryinfo/Coronavirus-Resources-for-Booksellers for up to date information, or follow the BA on Twitter @BABooksellers
 
  • ​Call your landlord and ask for rent relief – use the BA’s letter to publishers (attached) as a source of arguments to justify your request
  • Call your publishing sales reps and ask for help — extended credit term, a payment grace period, the removal of return caps.  There is no down side to asking. Publishers may be able to help on a case-by-case basis.
  • Call your other suppliers and request the same extended credit terms
  • Promote your website
  • Offer free or inexpensive shipping, home delivery, or pickup to encourage shopping on your site
  • Use social media to reach your customers and reinforce that you are able to get books to them and by what means
  • If you want to provide home delivery but don’t want to service this from the shop, consider using either Bertrams Send My Book service or Gardners Home Delivery service
  • Lobby your local government officials for loans, grants, and other support for business. Check your local authority websites for information.
  • Reach out to localism or local business communities for advice and information and mutual support
  • Visit the BA’s Booksellers Network to share questions, concerns, ideas, and support https://www.facebook.com/groups/booksellersnetwork/?ref=group_header
  • Notify the BA if your store is closed, whether voluntarily or due to a government requirement, so we have critical info for our lobbying and advocacy efforts. 
  • Contact the BA for assistance or to make suggestions about what would help you
  • Check your insurance provider for details of business interruption and other cover
  • Consider staffing implications – use the BA’s Business Support Helpline for advice on employment law or health and safety regulations – see above
  • Consider the well being of yourself and your staff – access the BA’s provision of Retail Trust counselling and well-being services visit www.retailtrust.org.uk/wellbeing - there is also a page with up to date guidance from Retail Trust here https://www.myrtwellbeing.org.uk/latest-information-on-the-coronavirus-covid-19/emergency-recovery-plan-for-the-coronavirus-covid-19/470.article    And more on the impacts on wellbeing here https://www.myrtwellbeing.org.uk/latest-information-on-the-coronavirus-covid-19/managing-your-wellbeing-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/469.article
      
Publisher and wholesaler support
The BA is in conversation with publishers, wholesalers, and lobbying for support for members. We are advocating for payment grace periods, extended credit terms, credits for returns in transit, free shipping for members, free shipping for customers, additional discount, the removal of caps on returns, virtual author events, signed stock, and other ideas.
 
Many publishers may be offering support on a case-by-case basis and we strongly encourage booksellers to contact their publishing reps with individual requests. We are grateful to all publishers who are supporting BA member shops. 
 
Social Media Messaging
We are encouraging consumers to support their local bookshop via the Books Are My Bag social media channels using the #ChooseBookshops messaging. We also encourage booksellers to update their customers via their social media channels and suggest different ways they are able to buy books from them during the coronavirus outbreak.
You can download our Reasons to Shop at Your Local Bookshop social media banners below:
 
Suggested social media copy below (please adapt for your own channels as necessary):

- Bookshops are great places of solace, information, community and friendship. They are also well-placed to take orders over the phone, provide personal shopping via social and post you your next great read. Support your high street in these challenging times #ChooseBookshops 

- Connection matters. Community matters. Bookshops matter. Now, more than ever, remember to support your local bookshop. #ChooseBookshops

- Are you social-distancing? You’ll need some reading material. If you can’t make it to your local bookshop, get in touch with them via phone and Twitter and they’ll post the books straight to your home. #ChooseBookshops

- Bookshops are great community hubs, especially during troubled times. They can give great recommendations and help with bookish requirements over the phone and on social media, and then post straight to your door. #ChooseBookshops