March 24, 2020 / 7:45 AM / 2 months ago

Australia book shop gets on its bike to ease coronavirus shutdown

SYDNEY (Reuters) - As most shopping comes to a halt under shutdown rules meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, an Australian book shop is getting its goods out by bicycle to readers in quarantine or reluctant to leave their homes.

Gleebooks, which has run a bricks-and-mortar shop in central Sydney for 40 years, said it decided to make its online service free when the government limited public gatherings to curb the spread of the illness that has infected nearly 2,000 Australians and killed eight of them.

From Monday, the restrictions went a step further when the government ordered all retailers to shut except for grocery stores, pharmacists and others deemed essential.

Whether that included Gleebooks was unclear but customers will get their books regardless, its managers decided, with the introduction of free drop-offs in surrounding suburbs.

The shop is among thousands around the world that have been forced to reinvent themselves virtually overnight to survive the biggest disruption to a sector already ravaged by the arrival of large internet rivals like Amazon.com Inc more than two decades ago.

“Because we’re a bookshop and we’re a retail venue, we realized we needed to make it as easy as possible for people to get their books without exposing themselves to any sort of risk,” the shop’s event manager, James Ross, told Reuters.

For customers outside the store’s bike-determined radius, Gleebooks cut postage fees for orders over A$50.

Customers have embraced the service, with an immediate spike in online sales, said Ross. The demand for craft and children’s activity books had risen, not surprisingly given that many schools have closed.

Slideshow (6 Images)

Nerida Ross, the store’s cyclist, said books offered an escape for those cooped up at home.

“Books are a nice way of traveling without having to go anywhere,” she said.

“A lot of people I know who have been working from home have been using the time that they aren’t commuting to read more or talk to friends or be creative in some way. We’re learning a new way of being and I think reading is a really big part of that.”

Reporting by Cordelia Hsu and James Redmayne in Sydney; Writing by Byron Kaye; Editing by Robert Birsel

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