The news that garden centres are allowed to reopen from tomorrow has been greeted as not only a positive economic move but also as a boost for people’s mental health and well-being.
Most independent pet stores have remained open throughout the crisis but the restrictions to date have caused difficulties for the significant number of pet shops sited within garden centres.
Horticultural Trades Association chairman James Barnes said: “We welcome the UK Government’s announcement that garden centres will be allowed to reopen from Wednesday. We are in peak season, when 70% of plants sold are between March and June.
“Opening garden centres this week in England will be applauded by millions of gardeners and the garden industry. This is not only a positive economic move but gardening benefits the mental health and well-being of so many people isolating at home and the importance of having something to do at home keeps you at home.”
James said the association had sought urgent talks with the Scottish Government to ascertain when a date would be set for the reopening of garden centres in Scotland as soon as safely possible.
He says the current situation will confuse the public and put the Scottish horticulture industry at a disadvantage to the rest of the UK. The HTA has made the same case to the Northern Ireland Executive.
“As an industry, our responsibility is to now work together to deliver a reopening programme safely and responsibly. The HTA has produced Safe Trading Guidance, which covers all aspects of how garden centres can re-open while ensuring staff and customer safety at all times.”
Although opening gardening centres is hugely welcomed, this isn’t the single answer for the £1.5bn British nursery market, which has already had to dispose of hundreds of tonnes of plants. The association continues talks with DEFRA to secure a rescue package for this sector.
James said: “We have been working closely with garden centres and while many are ready to open and have been working hard to put in place the necessary measures to ensure the safety of both their customers and their staff, our priority over the coming days will be to provide help to those that need further support. This is to ensure that we can get as many businesses back up and running but only when they can open safely.
SURGE IN DEMAND
“Due to the popularity of gardening we know that there will be a huge surge in demand. We would ask customers before setting out on their journey to check first that their garden centre is open. The Plants Near Me website will show which garden centres have signed up to the Safe Trading Guidance We hope that the public will be patient with us while we adapt to these new trading conditions.”
TV presenter and gardening expert Alan Titchmarsh added: “This is welcome news for both growers and gardeners. It is up to us all now to make the supply chain work safely. Garden centre managers must ensure that customers have as pleasant an experience as possible without compromising their wellbeing.
“As customers we need to understand the endeavours being made by garden centre staff to supply our needs under exceptionally difficult circumstances. With joint determination to make this work – and that will involve patience and cooperation on both sides of the till – we can rescue a situation and avert what seemed, a few weeks ago, like total disaster.
“Gardens enhance our lives, and now we have a chance to support and encourage those who grow the plants that fill them.”