Bookselling Ireland has today written to the Taoiseach to ask that bookshops be classed as ‘essential’ retail and be allowed to open, or be granted special dispensation to offer click and collect services.
Survival of the bookselling sector in Ireland very much at risk. The loss of these shops would be devastating, not only for the individuals involved but for their communities up and down the country.
In mainland Europe, France has recently joined Italy and others in allowing bookshops to open during lockdown due to the important service offered. In Scotland, which has a similarly cautious approach to Ireland regarding lockdown, bookshops were one of the first retail businesses permitted to operate a pre-booked click and collect service, which has proved to be a lifeline for the shops and their customers.
The bookselling industry is vital: providing a service that improves people’s mental health during difficult times, providing educational material for children including those students who will sit their Leaving Certificate exams in June, but also plays a central role supporting Ireland’s proud literary culture by showcasing books by Irish authors.
Bookshops in Ireland also directly employ over 4,000 people and support many, many, more jobs in the supply chain, all whilst contributing hugely to our local communities. A recent report by Jim Power noted the bookselling sector is estimated to pay a gross wage bill of €35.9 million – all of which is under threat if click and collect services are not allowed to resume.
The letter also highlights the inconsistencies within the current definitions of essential retail, underlining the commercial disadvantage faced by bookshops, with essential retailers that sell books being allowed to remain open, while booksellers themselves are forced to shut.
Heidi Murphy, Chair of Bookselling Ireland, said: “Bookshops are so much more than a place to buy books – they are cultural hubs that play a unique role in supporting Irish writers, bringing life to our towns and giving readers windows into different worlds when we need it the most. Bookshops have been designated as ‘essential’ in many other European countries and, if we want to continue our great literary tradition, Ireland must surely follow suit.”