20 March 2020, Message from Dan Slevin:
On Wednesday the chair of Booksellers NZ, Juliet Blyth, and I flew to Auckland for a scheduled board meeting. We could have cancelled the flights and made the meeting virtual but we thought it was too important not to meet face to face.
I’m glad we did because I was able to see up close the dedication, care and imagination that our board are demonstrating in response to the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19.
We also met with publishers through the Book Trade Liaison Committee, a forum that is going to be increasingly important as the weeks and months go on.
The board’s focus was on what Booksellers NZ can do that will have a material impact on the lives and business of members. Last week I announced these measures:
- Our terms of trade to member bookshops will extend to 90 days. If you order tokens or merchandise from us you won’t have to pay us for three months.
- And we are committing to turn around all token redemptions within seven days of receipt – usually we would pay out on the 20th of the following month. (This week we received $700 of tokens for redemption from 2011 that a member had found in a storeroom. We paid them out next day and were delighted to do so. Check under the couch cushions, you don’t know what you might find.)
In addition to the above, I am pleased to confirm the following initiatives will be rolled out over the next seven days:
- Tiffany Matsis, Booksellers Administrator, will become a dedicated point of contact for any member wanting help navigating the government’s business assistance package. If it looks daunting, or you are not sure whether it will apply to you, call or email Tiffany from Monday and she will do her best to help.
- She is also assembling a directory of resources to support wellbeing and mental health for members who are experiencing more stress than usual. That resource will be on our website from next week and we will link to it here. You can also ring either her or myself if you feel like you need a chat.
We are increasing Tiffany’s hours to allow her to do this work as well as her normal responsibilities and she will be available between 9 and 3 every weekday.
- We will extend the grace period for membership renewals to six months. Invoices for your 2020-2021 membership will still go out on 1 April but we will not expect payment until at least September.
- From next week we will start an online promotion giving away $1000 of book tokens each week – half to a member bookshop for them to use in their own marketing and half to a member of the public. We are committed to doing this every week for at least the next 12 weeks and will dedicate additional spend to advertising the promotion online.
- We will invest in the capacity of every member who has an online store to accept the plastic Booksellers gift card (which is administered by ePay). This may take a wee while to implement but it will help all our members to be ready for when we come out of all this difficulty.
- Gemma Browne returns to the team from 1 April and she will be tasked with ramping up our social media profile as well as co-ordinating our big projects for the year – conference, the Summer Reading Guide and NZ Bookshop Day. All of those projects are still extremely important to us and we will be dedicating as much resource as we can to ensuring that they are successful.
- We will be working alongside the publishers to come up with in-store and social media promotions to drive traffic either to your real world location or to your online store. If you don’t currently have a way to sell online, reach out to us because we may be able to help you organise something.
This is just the beginning. If you have any other ideas for how we can leverage the power of the association to do things that individual members don’t have the capacity to do for themselves, please talk to us.
We have been in contact with Retail NZ and they are working on sector-wide issues like rent relief and Paywave.
In our discussions with publishers, they signalled that they see some difficulties getting stock into NZ over the next few months as freight capacity is impacted but they are also realistic about the pressures being faced by booksellers on the front line and made it clear that we are all going to have to work together to get through this.
I’ll close by saying that, while a pandemic might be unprecedented, we have all been through crises – and even recessions – before. I know this isn’t my first rodeo! One thing I have learned about recessions is that they eventually end. In the meantime, continue to provide great service to your customers and look after your people. They will remember you when the good times come back.
This too shall pass.
Noho ora mai rā,