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As bookshops in the UK hold out hope that they will be able to re-open at the end of March, Waterstones has announced the beginnings of what could be an ongoing partnership with the clothing retailer Next.

Waterstones is to open a large concession within Next’s new flagship store in Leicester’s Fosse Park out-of-town retail park.  Kate Skipper, Waterstones chief operating officer, said: “We are very excited to be embarking on a new partnership set within Next’s Fosse Park store. We have been keen to bring a bookshop back to Fosse Park for a number of years, something that has been missing since Borders sadly closed their doors. We are delighted to have found a way to make this happen and are thrilled to be working on this new venture with Next. Next are leading the way as they rethink retail space and we look forward to opening our new shop with them immensely.”

The concession will hold some 20,000 titles, making it a proper shop within a shop rather than just a few shelves tucked in a corner.  If the new venture is successful, Skipper added that there would be “significant further opportunities to work with Next to bring our bookshops to new locations”.  Mixing books with other product has worked well for UK chains such as clothing retailer Urban Outfitters and homeware chain Oliver Bonas.

In the meantime, non-essential retailers in England are hoping they will be allowed to could reopen as early as the end of March as part of an easing of lockdown restrictions.  In informal comments to newspapers, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested restrictions will be lifted in a phased approach from next month.  He is due to make an official statement on the path out of lockdown on 22 February.