With the COVID-19 pandemic looming over the world right now, restricting movement and gatherings, threatening life and the normal order of business, people are freaking out. What this means for some is a panicked excursion to the supermarket for supplies… too many supplies in some cases.
empty ALDI shelf // image via instagram
While some huge conglomerate stores and more regional markets have been slammed with worried customers, independent retailers have not had the same reaction.
For many independent bookstores, the coronavirus has had a devastating effect on their business, one that threatens the very subsistence of the store itself. In a time of panic, worry, and (necessary) isolation, your local bookstore needs your support, now more than ever.
In the US, we spoke to Cheryl Popp, owner of Sausalito Books By The Bay, located on the other end of the Golden Gate Bridge in California, about her store, and the overwhelming challenge it now faces.
Sausalito is a “locally-owned and operated bookstore”, and one that has only been in operation for six months. This blow, as you can imagine, could not have come at a worse time. Particularly when January and February already serve as some of the slowest time periods for retail. Cheryl’s approach, given the situation, is “precaution vs panic.”
Sausalito is planning on remaining open, potentially reducing from seven days of operation to five, but “would like to continue to be a community resource and safe haven for residents during this challenging time.”
In some ways we aren’t changing what we’ve always done — we have always shipped books for free and I will deliver books for free to any local doorstep. These two customer services are especially valuable right now. If someone is wary of leaving their home, we can bring them books. Books make good company when you can’t get out and about!
With quarantine and self-isolation a reality for many, this service is incredible, meaning those cooped up indoors can at least escape into a book, all while supporting a local business. Alongside this, Sausalito also runs a community-driven book service, with customers able to put a book cost on their account – running a book tab, of sorts.
“People need to support their independent bookstores”, without this, it is not sustainable. “The health and safety of everyone is the concern”, with the store undergoing more thorough cleaning, and plenty of lysol and hand sanitizer to go around. Sausalito have not yet suspended local events, having hosted a 35-person strong event just this past Wednesday. “Everyone went for dinner afterwards. In smaller communities, merchants and residents have to support each other.”
So how can you show your support?
BUY BOOKS! Now more than ever, we need book lovers to buy even more books than they might normally in order to sustain their local bookstore during this dark time. Buy them for themselves, buy them for others. After all, what could more nourishing (and perhaps a much-needed distraction) than to journey into a good book?
Bookstores around the world have taken to social media to voice their own concerns:
We don’t know what’ll happen to small businesses like ours during #lockdown. If anyone who’s not going to be in town for the coming weeks wants to stock up on books today, we would greatly appreciate a visit from you. #COVID19ireland #CoronavirusPandemic #SelfIsolation pic.twitter.com/oG4SpjKNvE
— Books Upstairs (@BooksUpstairs) March 12, 2020
Books Upstairs, a small city-center bookstore in Dublin, Ireland, voiced their worries in light of Ireland’s COVID-19 lockdown \ via twitter
On the East Coast, we got in touch with Cari Quartuccio of Shakespeare and Co., to discuss how they have been impacted. As the business is a bookstore and café, the most marked slowdown has been on the café end. “Some larger purchases have been made for people in quarantine”, with people stocking up for a possible isolation period. They are, however, expecting a slowdown in trade in the coming months, and taking some cost-cutting procedures in preparation. “Having no idea of when it ends adds to the uncertain nature.” The expenses of running an independent store don’t go away when crisis hits, and rent will still need to be paid. Plus, the welfare of employees is paramount, with their bills a considerable hardship.
To support Shakespeare and Co, and your own local store, many bookstores are selling books on their websites. Shakespeare and Co “now offers free shipping”, minimizing the need for people to come in-store. In addition, Cari says “gift cards are a wonderful thing” that have the opportunity to “bridge the gap for stores.” This way, you can support your local bookstore for now and in the future. If you have the means to shop local, your support may keep a business afloat during the hardship sure to loom in the shadow of the current pandemic.
If you’re ordering books for self-isolation, remember that many independent bookshops—including us!—not only take orders online, but also deliver quickly, pay their taxes, treat their employees well and, well, actually care about books. Our online store: https://t.co/wdEe6IIB2I pic.twitter.com/NBYtSnqkLY
— Shakespeare&Company (@Shakespeare_Co) March 13, 2020
For some, you can even order through Postmates. Now you really have no excuse.
— Kramerbooks (@kramerbooks) March 13, 2020
While you may be inclined to run straight to larger companies for your book needs during this trying time, consider ordering from your favorite indie bookstore, online or in-store. They need your help, now more than ever, and you can rest easy (and in isolation), knowing that your contribution may save the livelihood of many.
Featured Image via Seattle Times
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