Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the stages that are being set up for easing the UK out of lockdown. Part of these measures includes allowing garden centres to reopen across the country – the Welsh government allowing centres to open from today, May 11th, while across England retailers will open their doors from Wednesday 13th May. However in Scotland centres currently remain closed.
Says Chairman of the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA , James Barnes of the opening up of garden centres.
“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.
“We have sought urgent talks with the Scottish Government to ascertain when a date will be set for the reopening of garden centres in Scotland as soon as safely possible. The current situation will confuse the public and put the Scottish horticulture industry at a disadvantage to the rest of the UK. We have 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.
“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.
“With over 23 million gardeners throughout the UK, we know that there will be a huge surge in demand. We would ask customers not to rush to retailers and buy more than they need and before setting out on their journey, to check first that their local 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.
But the association also raises their continued concern to how the lockdown has affected the industry stating that although opening gardening centres is hugely welcomed across the horticulture supply chain, this isn’t the single answer for the £1.5 bn British nursery market, who have already had to dispose of hundreds of tonnes of plants.
“The damage has already been done to our industry, as garden centres have been closed during the annual peak period for plant sales – 70% of plants are sold between March and June and 60% of plant nursery sales in the UK are made through independent garden centres. The only way to rescue this sector now is for the UK Government to pursue a simple Dutch-style compensation scheme, which will help save our horticultural industry.”