America’s second-largest bookstore chain, Books-A-Million, is readying for Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 10 in USA) and is opening all but a handful of its 200 stores across the country, the exceptions being states or counties where full lockdown continues.

In a press release Books-A-Million CEO Terrance G. Finley said,

We are extremely appreciative of the support we have received from our customers during these difficult times. Through online ordering; the buy online, pick-up in store option; and curbside pick-up, our guests have continued to seek out great books, educational materials, puzzles and toys.

Now that we are able to welcome our customers back to the stores in time for Mother’s Day, our booksellers stand ready to share the rich assortment of new books and products that we have been curating over the past weeks.

“Cosmetic cases in beautiful floral prints and a wide assortment of Mom mugs,” along with “items for self-care, including journals, relaxation kits, candles and more” will be edging books off the shelves as Books-A-Million’s new normal looks remarkably like the old normal. A book store that believes that books aren’t attractive enough on their own to keep customers coming through the doors.

But to be fair, books are the primary focus still. Recognising that post-pandemic booklovers who do choose to visit the stores (open from 11AM through 7PM), won’t want to be standing around shouting across to staff standing six feet away to discuss the latest releases, Books-A-Million has,

launched its new program “Talk to a Bookseller,” which gives book lovers the opportunity to speak to bookselling experts for recommendations by calling 866-544-1468.

Further, the newly launched curbside pick-up offering will continue to be available to at least entice customers to the vicinity of the store. and for those few that are willing to risk walking through the doors Books-A-Million has,

implemented additional efforts to provide a safe shopping environment for guests and associates with some noticeable precautions in place, including providing personal protective equipment for associates, installing acrylic register guards at all check-out areas and implementing self-distancing markers in aisles and at the registers.

In other words, the post-pandemic shopping experience at Books-A-Million will be about as far removed from the old normal as one can get while still operating a book store.

But hold on, did I say “post-pandemic”?

Wishful thinking. The USA is still in full pandemic crisis mode, and to many of us outside the US, and no doubt many within the country, the very idea of opening bookstores at this juncture is jaw-dropping.

A reminder for those outside the USA reading this that the United States remains by far the worst hit country on the planet, clocking typically 1,500-2,000 deaths a day from Covid-19, with the total death count as this post goes live hovering around 77,000, with 1.3 million confirmed cases, of which over 1 million are still active.

The Books-A-Million management is of course acting on the guidance of the White house and state governors, many of whom are insisting that the ker-ching of the cash register is more important than the health of employees.

So it’s worth noting here that the Books-A-Million press release declines to mention if staff are being given any option about returning to work and risking their and their families’ lives so that the company can sell a few candles and relaxation kits on Mothers Day alongside the latest bestsellers.

“Love you, Mom. Here’s that beautiful cosmetic case you said was to die for…”