'Retail is on its knees': Popular Cork bookstore defends in-store mask wearing requirement following online backlash

'Retail is on its knees': Popular Cork bookstore defends in-store mask wearing requirement following online backlash
Joan Lucey, Robert McGillicuddy and Yvonne O’Connell putting together adult and children’s craft kits for online orders at Vibes and Scribes, Bridge Street, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

The managing director of a popular Cork bookstore has said she is “totally shocked and surprised” at the backlash received on social media after customers were asked to wear face masks in store.

Vibes and Scribes Bookshop on Lavitt’s Quay reopened yesterday after three months of being shut and asked its customers to wear a mask while in the store.

Customers were invited to wear their own masks or to pick up a mask made available in store with donations going toward supporting the Sexual Violence Centre in Cork.

The store has since received a mountain of backlash on social media with customers arguing that “nobody should be made to wear face masks” and that it was an “absurd requirement”.

Managing Director Joan Lucey said that she was totally shocked that a group of people decided to gang up on them in an attempt to boycott the store.

Speaking to The Echo, she said that the last three months have been “very difficult” and that although the online shop has been busy, that the crafts and supplies store on Bridge Street has been turned into a warehouse to meet demand and cannot reopen as of yet.

Vibes and Scribes has received backlash for asking its customers to wear a face mask in-store.
Vibes and Scribes has received backlash for asking its customers to wear a face mask in-store.

She said she felt ready to open the bookstore and gave thought to the safest way to do so.

Ms Lucey was happy to invest in the masks which are in aid of the Sexual Violence Centre and said she felt as though mask wearing “is about looking after other people”.

“It’s about looking after your team, the people you work with, the customers that come in. That’s the sort of team spirit we have here in Vibes and Scribes,” she said.

Nobody was let go from the Vibes and Scribes team during the pandemic and bookstore staff moved to the crafts store servicing the online shop.

Ms Joyce said that she was in touch with how nervous staff felt about coming into the city and using public transport so when it came to reopening, she knew she had to make the place safe for them and thought customers would feel the same.

“I admit we didn’t consult with anybody but to be honest I didn’t feel that it was terribly relevant, I thought I was doing the right thing for my staff and my customers.

“I’ve been listening to the advice. Funnily enough, on our online shop we’ve been selling huge amounts of products for mask making because we sell a lot of elastics and fabrics, so I was also in touch with the fact that people are making masks and people were pro-masks.” The store has made allowances for people who do feel uncomfortable wearing a mask by asking them to spend 10 minutes in the store.

“Retail is on its knees. No matter what happens when we open up, no matter how the customers feel towards us, it’s going to be very difficult.

“It’s very challenging times and it’s like your fellow neighbours are ganging up against you. I knew that it was a bit of a risk to ask it of customers but I had to weigh that up against the safety of the staff and customers that I have and I have a moral conscience,” she said.

The latest official advice from the HSE last updated on June 15, states that face coverings should be worn in situations where it is difficult to practice social distancing, such as in shops and on public transport.

“Face coverings help prevent people who do not know they have the virus from spreading it to others,” the HSE advice states.

For further information, visit the HSE website here.

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