Update at 25/03/2020, 1:55pm - The Government's website states that "Businesses operating non-essential services must shut down their premises. These businesses can continue to operate with staff working from their own homes. If this is not possible, these business must close their operations." This is clear guidance that online book sales should cease.
Booksellers advice to members - Tuesday 24 March, 12:30pm
ADVICE RE COVID-19 ALERT LEVEL 4
The Board and staff of Booksellers NZ consider that the health and well-being of all New Zealanders is our most important consideration. We are 100% committed to supporting the Government's campaign against Covid-19. As difficult as this unprecedented four week period is, it is vital that we all do our part to try and minimise the duration of this disruption.
Alert level 4 means that “Non-essential businesses in New Zealand must close” at 11:59pm on Wednesday 25 March. The official advice requires “New Zealanders who are outside of essential services must stay at home and stop all interactions with others outside of those in your households”.
What does non-essential mean?
The advice from the Government about essential businesses clearly excludes bookshops. The types of businesses that are allowed to remain open are those that are essential for the necessities of life, such as supermarkets, pharmacies, and utilities. As vital as we consider books to be, they cannot realistically be considered to be essential supplies at this time.
[Update 26/03/2020, 8:50am - NZ Post has declared that retail postal services are non-essential: "While NZ Post’s courier and mail delivery services have been deemed essential services to ensure delivery of necessities to New Zealand, NZ Post’s retail over the counter services including postage and bill payments are considered to be non-essential. As a result, from 11.59pm Wednesday 25th March NZ Post retail outlets will close, and all over the counter services will be unavailable until further notice." As a result, all stores should now be closed.]
The exception to this will be member stores with mail facilities. Postal services have been classed as an essential service. All Paper Plus and Take Note stores, even those with mail facilities, will be closed from the end of the day on Wednesday. For stores that do remain open for mail services, whether you continue to sell books will be a decision you need to consider carefully based on the set-up of your store. Consider how you will implement 2-metre distancing. Think carefully about staff rostering and staggering of shifts and meal breaks to avoid contact between people who are not living in the same household. Please continue to be stringent with cleaning processes. Keep records of all contacts and dates of contact in the event that tracing is later required.
What does “close” mean?
The requirement is for non-essential businesses to “close”. In the view of Booksellers NZ, this means that a physical bookstore must close its doors to customers. We also believe that this means that online sales must likewise cease. Having staff in store fulfilling online orders and liaising with couriers is not in the spirit of the official requirements to isolate and avoid travel. The intention of the unprecedented lockdown is to avoid any unnecessary contact for the health and safety of all New Zealanders. [Update at 25/03/2020, 1:55pm - The Government's website states that "Businesses operating non-essential services must shut down their premises. These businesses can continue to operate with staff working from their own homes. If this is not possible, these business must close their operations." This is clear guidance that online book sales should cease.]
Booksellers NZ recommends that – if you haven’t already – you should:
- Talk to your landlord about rent relief for the four weeks you cannot open;
- Talk to your bank about lines of credit if your reserves are going to be stretched; and
- Talk to Work & Income about the government’s wage subsidy (see more information below).
If we all play our part, this four weeks will be the only four weeks that New Zealand will need to be at Level 4; so let’s do it properly and with grace.
Things to think about before you close for four weeks:
- Security – check all windows and doors, take away any cash.
- Phones – do you need to record a message saying you are closed? Do you need to divert your landline to a mobile?
- Emails – do you need to set up an auto-reply saying you are closed or will someone be answering emails from home?
- Social media – do you need to update your opening hours on your social media? Have you posted a message to customers?
- Courier and mail deliveries – what will happen to these while you are closed? Can you divert them to a residential address for security? How will couriers arriving at your closed store know where to go?
- Perishables – check the fridge in your staffroom (and parents/caregivers, make sure you get those lunchboxes out of school bags!)
- Staying in contact with staff – check in on each other while you are in lockdown. If you don’t have one already, perhaps consider setting up a FaceBook group, a WhatsApp chat or other mechanism to keep in touch. We have listed some helpful resources on our website to deal with mental health in these difficult times.
- Make sure you have sent all redeemed Booksellers Tokens to us for processing. We will still process redemptions as close to the day of receipt as possible and this money might be important for your cashflow as the month goes on.
Things to do while you are closed:
These four weeks present the ideal opportunity to indulge in what booksellers do best – read! Before you all leave the store, divvy up those reading copies. Now is the time to get a head start on forthcoming publications and write reviews for newsletters and social media.
Think about ways you can maintain communication and interest with your customers during the shutdown. Regular posting, getting creative and encouraging engagement. People will be home and online more, and they will be in need of community. Remember that bookshops are important community hubs; let’s maintain that role even when we are closed. At Booksellers NZ, we will use the power of our own social media to boost your posts.
This is also a great time to think about what position your business will be in when this crisis comes to an end. Can you be working on improvements to your online store while you are working from home? If and when the restrictions end, your online store is likely to bounce back faster than your retail presence so you will want to take advantage. We can help with this, so please make contact if you want to talk through your options.
Wage subsidy scheme
Wage subsidies are available for all employers that are significantly impacted by COVID-19 and are struggling to retain employees as a result. A further update to the scheme was announced on Monday. The subsidy now applies to all employers, contractors, sole traders, self-employed people, registered charities and incorporated societies.
- your business must be registered and operating in New Zealand;
- your employees must be legally working in New Zealand;
- the business must have experienced a minimum 30% decline in actual or predicted revenue over the period of a month when compared with the same month last year, and that decline is related to COVID-19;
- your business must have taken active steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19; and
- you must make best efforts to retain employees and pay them a minimum of 80% of their normal income for the subsidised period.
The COVID-19 Wage Subsidy will be paid at a flat rate of:
- $585.80 for people working 20 hours or more per week
- $350.00 for people working less than 20 hours per week.
The subsidy is paid as a lump sum and covers 12 weeks per employee. This subsidy is for wages only. It is to help you keep your staff employed while you consider changes that may be needed while the disruption continues, and to ensure the future viability of your business.
The application is straight-forward and, according to anecdotal evidence, is being paid out within days of application and all 12 weeks are paid in a lump sum. We urge you to apply without delay. The application form can be found here.
When you apply, you will need to have handy:
- your IRD number;
- your New Zealand Business Number (you can find that here);
- name, address, and contact details;
- your employees’ details (include full-time and part-time employees in the same application): names, IRD numbers, and dates of birth.
You do not need to submit evidence of the decline in revenue with your application. But you should ensure that you have this available if you are asked for it at a later date.
In applying for the wage subsidy, you as the employer will need to declare that you will use your best endeavours to continue to employ the affected employees at a minimum of 80% of their income for the duration of the subsidy period. (This is the equivalent of keeping people working 4 out of 5 days of the week.) You must also have taken active steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and sign a declaration form to that effect. Please read carefully the declaration form.
If we can help you with your application, please contact us.
We understand that reducing staff numbers will be a last resort that no employer wishes to take. However, if you do need to consider cutting staff hours or reducing numbers, it is crucially important that you follow the correct procedures. There is more information here and here on redundancies and what steps need to be taken.
We will continue to be here (working from home) to assist in any way we can.
Booksellers notice to members - Monday 23 March, 3:30pm
Alert level 3, moving to alert level 4 – what this means for you
At midnight on Wednesday 25 March New Zealand is moving from Covid-19 alert level 3 to alert level 4. At this time, all non-essential services will be required to close. This, unfortunately, includes bookshops. You must close your shop for face-to-face business from midnight on Wednesday 25 March. This will remain in place for at least four weeks (Wednesday 22 April).
What does face to face business mean? Can you continue supplying online purchases? We will provide you more answers on this as soon as we are able. There is still some clarity required. We will provide information regarding couriers and postal deliveries as soon as we’re able to give you some definitive advice.
You have until midnight on Wednesday 25 March to make the necessary arrangements with your staff and customers.
We know that this is an extremely stressful time. We will be here providing further information and support for members as the situation unfolds. Please keep an eye on our website for updates.
Updates to Government support:
- The business support package for Covid-19 is now worth $9.3 billion.
- Self-employed people and businesses that are less than a year old will also now be eligible for wage subsidies.
- The $150k wage subsidy cap for all businesses has been removed. All businesses are eligible.
- There will be no rent increases and "no-cause" terminations of tenancy agreements will cease.
- There will be support for mortgage holders; details to come.
There is a lot of information out there so we have tried to condense the most useful and relevant advice into these links for you.
What is COVID-19?
Here is a useful summary with a local flavour from The Spinoff.
Health and safety
Here is WHO’s advice on getting your workplace prepared and reducing risk.
If you or your staff need to self-isolate, the Ministry of Health has guidance here on what this actually means and how to do it.
Remember to look after your mental health too. These are stressful times. It's natural to feel emotionally and physically drained. You’re not alone in this and you don’t need to cope on your own. There is some useful advice here from the Ministry of Health. You can get more help and information from your GP or local community health centre, Youthline 0800 376 633, Rural Support Trust 0800 RURAL HELP, and Need To Talk by calling or texting 1737.