Information for our Customers
At Waterstones, we are committed to the safety of both our customers and our staff. Throughout the pandemic, Waterstones has remained a welcoming but secure shopping environment, and we would like to thank our customers for helping us maintain these levels of safety.
Our bookshops across the UK, ROI and Europe are subject to COVID-19 mitigations varying by nation: this legislation and guidance can be subject to change, and we recommend our customers review the guidance noted below prior to travel.
Face Masks and Hand Sanitisers
Safety Signage and Limiting Customer Numbers
For customer guidance toward how to help keep everyone safe, depending on location you may find safety signage posted around our bookshops. This may include recommended or mandatory instruction around social distancing measures, hand sanitisation stations and directional signage to help manage the flow of customers, where appropriate. Other factors, such as layout and number of floors, may also play their part in our safety management.
Entrances and Hand Sanitising
Depending on location, some of our bookshops may be designated for entrance or exit only and clear signage will denote this. We have invested in free-standing sanitiser stations for each shop, enabling our customers to sanitise immediately upon entry and wall-mounted sanitisers set at the entrances to our lifts. Regardless of any government loosening in safety measures, we do respectfully ask all customers to continue their practice of hand sanitisation before browsing.
Social Distancing, Furniture and Layout
Depending on location, signage may request customers to keep a safe distance from both other customers and our staff. Where social distancing is still in effect, our shops have completed a review of their furniture placement to ensure adequate space for staff and customers to move around in safety, sometimes using tables and other shop fixtures to guide adequate social distancing.
Tills and Queue Management
Similar to those you may have noticed in supermarkets and other retailers, we have installed sneeze screens throughout our bookshops, designed help protect both you and our staff while serving. Depending on location, queueing at the till may be enhanced by adhesive floor vinyls, placed at 2m intervals, to indicate where is safe to stand.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): What We Are Providing
Since the outset of lockdown, our Health & Safety and Property teams have worked arduously toward protecting the safety of both our staff and our customers, and we trust you will find our bookshops a safe and protective environment.
Across our shops in the UK, ROI and Europe, we have worked in collaboration with governments and our long-term suppliers to create comprehensive PPE kits that include customer sanitising stations, disposable gloves, disinfectant spray, hand sanitisers, face masks, and sneeze screens.
Customer Service, Social Distancing and Transactions At Our Tills
Excellent customer service is integral to good bookselling. Since our founding, we have relished what comes naturally to us, delivering the warm, knowledgeable service that is synonymous with Waterstones.
At the till, you will continue to enjoy this service, although some coronavirus protections—notably our sneeze screens—remain to help protect both customers and staff. We do accept cash, but we far prefer contactless payment (via debit/credit card or Apple and Google Pay) to minimise the potential of virus transmission. A transaction limit of £100 applies across these payment methods.
Wearing a Face Mask
UK Government removed the mandatory need in England to wear face masks in January and, under the ‘Living with COVID’ programme, from Thursday 27 January most coronavirus restrictions have been removed. We have however encouraged our staff to continue wearing face masks to help make our customers feel safe and for their protection and others.
Separate national guidance across Scotland, Wales, NI. ROI and Europe is detailed below.
Customer Guidance for UK, ROI & Europe
Shops in England
From Thursday 24 February, revisions to the UK Government’s coronavirus guidance means the easing of most existing COVID-19 restrictions. However, in order to help our customers feel safe whilst browsing and shopping, we are encouraging our staff to continue wearing face coverings for the protection of both themselves and others. We will continue to employ both hand sanitisers and sneeze screens to help mitigate potential transmission.
Shops in Scotland
From Friday 10 July, the Scottish Government introduced, by law, the compulsory use of face coverings in shops, with a limited number of exceptions. Friday 17 December further saw the introduction of further mitigations, notably toward social distancing.
By face coverings, the guidance does not indicate a surgical or other medical grade mask, but a covering of the mouth and nose that is made of cloth or other textiles and through which you can breathe, for example a scarf or religious head covering that covers the mouth and nose. Face visors, so long as they cover nose and mouth completely, are included.
- Children under the age of five years
- Children with breathing difficulties and disabled children who would struggle to wear a face covering
- People who have a health condition, disabled people and those who need to communicate with a person who has difficulties communicating (in relation to speech, language or otherwise) where wearing a face covering would be inappropriate because it would cause difficulty, pain or severe distress or anxiety, or because it cannot be worn in the proper manner safely.
Social distancing within our Scottish bookshops is now set to 2 metres. Following guidance established on 17 December, our shops are now subject to customer one-way systems and set occupancy limits.
Further guidance can be found on the Scottish Gov website here.
Shops in Wales
From Monday 28 March, our shops in Wales will follow government’s loosening of COVID-19 mitigations where face coverings will legally only be required only in health and care settings. However, in order to help our customers feel safe whilst browsing and shopping, we are encouraging our staff to continue wearing face coverings for the protection of both themselves and others. We will continue to employ both hand sanitisers and sneeze screens to help mitigate potential virus transmission.
Shops in Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland Executive has introduced, by law, the compulsory use of face coverings in shops, with a limited number of exceptions. Government defines a face covering as a covering of any type which covers your nose and mouth.Exceptions include:
- Children under the age of 13
- If you need to seek medical assistance or to provide care to someone who needs assistance, such as a vulnerable person or in an emergency
- If you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering
- If putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress
- If you need to remove it to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others If you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
- If you need to eat, drink, or take medication
Further guidance can be found on the Northern Irish Gov website here.
Shops in the ROI
Within the ROI, by law customers must wear face coverings to help stop the spread of COVID-19. These directions are covered in SI 296 of 2020 (pdf).
Exemptions to this rule include:
- Children aged under 13
- Those who cannot wear a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or a disability, or because it would cause severe distress
- Where there is need to communicate with someone who has difficulties communicating
- Where there is need to remove a face covering to care for or help a vulnerable person or to give emergency assistance to someone
- Removing a face covering to take medication
- Removing a face covering to avoid harm or injury
Further details are available at https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/health/covid19/face_coverings_during_covid19.html#.
Shops in Europe
Our bookshop in Amsterdam is now temporarily closed following the tightening of restrictions across the Netherlands on Sunday 19 December. We will reopen when non-essential retail is permitted to do so.
Our bookshop in Belgium is open as usual for trade: Wednesday 17 November saw a tightening of safety mitigations, including:
- The wearing of masks, which will now be compulsory in shops and shopping centres. Masks are compulsory from the age of 10
- Keeping a safe distance of 1.5 metres and limiting the amount of social contact
Further details are available at Further information is available at https://www.commissioner.brussels/en/updates-covid-19/item/888-covid-updates-17-11.
We are pleased to confirm the vast majority of our Cafés are now open, but locally opening hours may be subject to change. Please contact your local Waterstones if you require further information.
Our bookshop events are currently still scheduled for 2022. Please check our events listings at Waterstones.com/events for the latest news and booking information.
Other Bookshop Facilities
Our customer lifts are limited to one person or one family group at a time.
If you have any other queries not answered here you can contact our Customer Support team. We are available Monday - Friday between the hours of 9.00am - 5.30pm are currently receiving a very high volume of emails, so may take longer to respond than normal.
Would you like to proceed to the App store to download the Waterstones App?
Alternatively, for multiple items you may find it easier to add to basket, then pay online and collect in as little as 2 hours, subject to availability.