Bookstores could be in store for a post-lockdown boom
Even as states throughout the U.S. begin the slow process of reopening as COVID-19 infection numbers show apparent declines, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about what types of brick-and-mortar retailers will survive. In New Zealand, one of the few countries that appear to have successfully eradicated COVID-19 infections from its population, bookstores are the first businesses to benefit from a post-lockdown boom.
Bookstores in New Zealand have been experiencing an influx of business described by booksellers nationwide as “extraordinary” and “like Christmas,” according to an article in The Guardian. Some booksellers interviewed attribute the boom to customers’ greater desire to support local businesses after getting a taste of living without them, hesitation to purchase things from abroad and having expendable cash at the moment (due to money saved on not commuting or going out to eat for the duration of the lockdown).
There has also been an increased interest in works by local New Zealand authors, which are easier for booksellers to stock than international literature. One bookseller noted that, despite the stress of the novel coronavirus pandemic making it difficult for people to concentrate, many have rediscovered their love of literature.
In Italy, one of the countries hit earliest and hardest by the novel coronavirus pandemic, bookstores were one of the first types of non-essential businesses to be allowed to reopen as the country began easing its lockdown restrictions in mid-April, as reported on Business Insider. Among the other first wave reopeners were libraries and children’s clothing stores.
Prior to the novel coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., independent bookstores, in particular, had been experiencing a revival in popularity. Even the U.S.’s most prominent remaining big box bookseller, Barnes & Noble, had high hopes for a turnaround.
Barnes & Noble CEO James Daunt, who joined the chain in late 2019, has been credited with turning around U.K. bookseller Waterstones with changes to make the big box retailer look more like an independent store, with a more localized selection and smaller locations, according to Bloomberg. Such moves are presumably also in store for Barnes & Noble as Mr. Daunt helms an attempted turnaround.
- Like Christmas: New Zealand’s post-Covid books boom – The Guardian
- Barnes & Noble, once an indie killer, is losing out to mom-and-pops – RetailWire
- What business owners can learn from how Italy is reopening stores after the coronavirus lockdown – Business Insider
- Barnes & Noble’s plan is to be more like an indie bookseller – Bloomberg
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will bookstores in the U.S. experience renewed interest when they reopen, similar to what happened in the New Zealand market, and for the same reasons? What should bookstores do to prepare and make themselves more successful in the post-COVID-19 world?