MorePeople was supposed to be celebrating this month. The business has been recruiting staff for their clients in food, garden and leisure and plant production for 20 years. But the coronavirus pandemic has put a stop to the celebrations. Garden Centre Retail speaks with Guy Moreton, the CEO of Stamford-based MorePeople, a recruitment specialist that works within the garden retail sector, to get his thoughts on where the industry and his business will be post-pandemic.
The business has furloughed around half of their staff, with senior management currently working from home, but Guy and his team keep in contact on a regular basis. He says: “We have a senior leadership team “Microsoft Team” meeting every morning at 9 am. They generally only last 15-30 minutes, but it is a great way of keeping in touch, working out what needs to be done and making sure that we cover everything off properly. We get the furloughed people together digitally once a week just to have a chat with them and make sure they are ok. They aren’t allowed to work, and we’re being squeaky clean about that, but they are regularly talking to their team leader and can pass on information and enquiries. WE have a Monday morning meeting with everyone anyway, pre coronavirus and we’ve carried that on over Microsoft teams. We have a quiz; we have a bit of banter and we’ve managed to keep that going. So far, so good.”
In such difficult times for businesses, recruiting is often the first thing that gets pushed to the back burner. But there are some rays of sunshine for Guy and the garden retail industry. Guy explains: “straight away, as soon as it was announced that garden centres should shut, we started to ring our clients to see what their thoughts were regarding any on-going recruitment projects. We managed to get hold of quite a few. Most garden centres have parked their recruitment, but not all of them.
Guy has some interesting views on the industry. “Like a lot of people, I’m very disappointed that the government decided to close garden centres. I understand why they did that, but DIY businesses were told they could stay open even though they made the decision to shut. Again, I get that, but with Easter coming up, I felt it was a very disappointing decision that garden centres were asked to close. There are some very worried people across our sector and at MorePeople we’re also very concerned about what is happening as we did a lot of work in the sector in January, February, and March and like every business rely on that cash coming in regularly and consistently.””
And that’s not the only knock-on effect the business has taken on board. A couple of candidates that MorePeople had placed in roles have had their roles cancelled which obviously affects us as well as the candidate of course.
There is also another sector of the garden retail industry that Guy thinks is most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. He explains: “The plight of garden centre suppliers worries me. We do quite a bit in the supply chain. We do a lot of work with bedding plant growers and we’re worried about quite a few of those. I’m extremely supportive of the plant scrappage scheme. The work that Boyd Douglas-Davies, Natalie Porter and the HTA are doing is fantastic. We could’ve done without Monty Don and his negative comments though but thanks to David Domoney and Alan Titchmarsh for their “celebrity” support.”
There is good news, too. Guy explains: “Believe it or not, we’ve had a role come through from a garden centre business for a manager for a centre because they need it. They were going to make the decision anyway, and it’s a positive strategic move from them. The owner wants to be less involved in the business, so they’ve decided that strategically, they’re going to come through the coronavirus pandemic, and therefore they’ll continue with their plans.”
He said many of his clients are continuing to take new staff on, especially in the plantareas, so there may be some hope left for this gardening season.
Guy does see light at the end of the tunnel for garden centres, predicting they will bounce back quite quickly as soon as lockdown rules are eased. He says: “I’d like to think most garden centres will come through this, although it will hurt them. Garden centres will bounce back, the public is desperate to get into their gardens and therefore the garden centres, so I’m hopeful that as soon as garden centres are open, there will be massive queues outside. We know that when they open, they will open with the social distancing measures that supermarkets are deploying. I suspect that they’ll only open the plantareas and the garden essential sections, but that’s a start.”
As the garden retail sector picks up post pandemic, MorePeople will have more than one thing to celebrate. Here’s to another 20 years of business, hopefully the next celebration won’t be affected by a global pandemic.