TORONTO -- Indigo Books & Music Inc. is laying off temporarily 5,200 of its retail employees starting today after deciding to keep its stores closed indefinitely during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Toronto-based book seller temporarily closed its stores March 17 until March 27, and paid its employees during the hiatus.

However, spokeswoman Kate Gregory says the stores will now remain closed until further notice, so the company "made the difficult decision" to layoff the workers temporarily.

She says Indigo expects "to re-embrace as many as possible when this period of store closure is over."

The company employs about 7,000 people in Canada, according to its website.

It operated 88 superstores and 111 small-format stores under a number of banners as of Dec. 28, 2019.