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HB Recovery

Louise Ward10 July 2020

[Editor’s note: Here’s a preview of some of the Recovery ‘good news’ reported in Jul/Aug BayBuzz mag.]

After the shock of going into lockdown we face the weirdness of recovery. In the bookshop, going into level 4 felt abrupt. Even though we knew what was going on, my mind for one didn’t quite process it in time. Good job I’m not in politics.

So, we closed up, put signs of love and community on the door with the now familiar sentiment, ‘see you on the other side.’

Now we’re on the other side and navigating the new normal. I think Wardini Books is going to be just fine. Here’s why.

We have spent eight years not only being part of the Hawke’s Bay community, but creating our own. We approach our trade as we approach all parts of our lives: people over profit. It’s an angle that’s served us well – apparently booksellers used to be pretty well-off back in the days when ‘shopping local’ wasn’t a bunch of buzz words but just what you did. Booksellers, like many retailers, have been absolutely hammered by offshore retail behemoths whose margins are greater and who are so huge they can manipulate the market.

Modern day booksellers are used to dealing with this kind of nonsense. We have long valued our local communities and had fabulous local support. We nurture a community of readers who love our social media, our staff, our little comfy chairs and our chats. This community immediately came to our emotional rescue by the simple act of staying in touch. I’ve never had so many heartfelt responses to email newsletters, Facebook and Instagram posts: We miss you, will you be OK? I’ll make a list for when you’re open again.

One thing this virus has done has given many shoppers a shock – what if I wake up tomorrow and all the cute little shops I take for granted are gone? Hang on, I can prevent this quite easily! I can support them. If I buy my books from my local bookseller where I know the people – those real-life people with families and mortgages – I have directly contributed to the recovery and salvation of my community. Jeff Bezos doesn’t need your support, but we do. It’s as simple as that.

Never has the shop local sentiment been so important. Yes, you might be able to get books from Amazon (Book Depository, Good Reads and many other ‘household’ names are owned by Amazon: see the manipulation comment above). You might think you can get them faster, but Covid 19 has levelled the playing field for booksellers a bit. There are few freight flights, everything is coming by sea. You’re going to have to wait, slow down, have patience, all these things we’ve learned by staying home and have vowed not to forget. You can phone your bookseller, pop in now that you’re allowed to, and browse what is already on the shelves.

The key to recovery in my trade will be the same as that of the recovery of the team of 5 million. Patience, kindness, understanding that if your book is taking 4 weeks to get here instead of just one that it’s because of the global situation. Publishers have delayed release dates, distributors are scrambling to get books out at short notice with no fast, efficient means of freighting; couriers (my heart goes out to couriers)are overworked, under resourced and blamed left right and Chelsea.

Our trade industry, Booksellers NZ, leapt into action with the hashtag #BookshopsWillBeBack and kept in touch with the nation, offering giveaways of book tokens across their channels. The nation responded with epic tales of why they loved their bookshops. I believe booksellers to be a unique breed. We banded together, supported one another practically and emotionally, acknowledging our fragilities and our strengths.

#BookshopsAreBack in all their glory and here’s what’s happening at Wardini Books: real life booksellers recommending books in person, by email and phone; book clubs happening virtually and in appropriately spaced out person; schools receiving boxes of books on appro and reading our Adele’s reviews on her website What Book Next; our Nigel and Wardini playing postie and making free local deliveries; our booksellers gift wrapping, writing cards of love, sympathy, joy on behalf of distant friends and relatives.

This isn’t just a job or a bunch of transactions for us. There is real connection, a genuine will to provide comfort and help, the providing of a tribe, a place of refuge for readers of all kinds.

We’re back. We need our communitynand our community needs us. That’s why we’ll survive.

Editor’s Note: All of our locally-owned book shops can well-use your reading love and support … Poppies, Humanity, Beattie & Forbes, like Wardini, have all been friends of BayBuzz.

Louise Ward10 July 2020

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