Tapps garden centre is a family-run, independent garden centre based in Baldock, Hertfordshire. The business is owned by Graham and Susan Tapp and was founded by the pair 34 years ago. Now into it’s second generation, the business relies on its adaptability to help the business thrive. In times like these, with a global pandemic affecting everyone around the world, adaptability is key. We speak with Louise Tapp about the company’s plans to combat coronavirus.
Tapps Garden Centre, like most others countrywide shut its doors as soon as the government implemented lockdown rules. About a week and a half before Boris Johnson made the announcement, the business decided to close the tearoom as a precaution against the virus.
Now, the business is down to a skeleton staff – out of the 11 staff members that Tapps Garden Centre currently employ, seven have been furloughed and the four family members – Louise, her husband and her in-laws – are doing what they can to get by in these unprecedented times.
Financially, the business will be able to cope for a short period of time. Louise says: “We know it’s going to be difficult, but if the lockdown ends before June, the season may be able to save itself. Otherwise, if the lockdown prolongs into summer, we will be in a situation where our savings will have to be dipped into.
“It’s not nice to look on the dark side, but you do have to sometimes. We are hoping that after three weeks, lockdown will be relaxed, but we have to start thinking realistically and thinking about the future – it’s what ifs. It’s good to get a plan together.”
The business hasn’t completely come to a halt. Louise explains: “Yesterday, we set up a click and collect service for garden essentials, but for the past two weeks, we’ve been doing a phone service. Customers call in, place their order and pay via a BACS transfer. We then give them the non-contact pick-up slot. Yesterday, we actually went live with an online click and collect service. It’s working well, we had three orders on the morning after the launch which is excellent.”
Because of this adaptation to trading, Louise believes that the business is at around 20-25% of their normal trading for this time of year.
And the click and collect and phone delivery service might not stop when the lockdown is lifted. If their trial is deemed successful, Louise sees this method used in some capacity in the future, too.
So, what happens to the business when normality resumes? It depends, says Louise. “We’ve just had Brexit, so the public wasn’t spending much money as it was anyway. We can come back from the situation, as long as it’s not too long. It may take a year or so, probably into the next season, for businesses to really recover.
“It’s definitely been a challenging year so far. Just as the season starts, the weather changed and then this pandemic came along and we’re in lockdown. We’re ready to react as need be.”
There were extension plans in pace for Tapps Garden Centre this year. Louise explains: “- last year was a really good year for us, we expanded the tearoom in a huge way. We were going to add some more retail space to the garden centre, and we were going to add more space to the tearoom, including a new kitchen. We’re going to have to put that on hold, at least for a year now. None of the plans were urgent, it would have been nice to get it done, but it can wait.”
And what advice would Louise share? “You have to be reactive and adaptable to a changing situation. You can’t get used to what you’re doing, you have to be ready to change it at any point and get with the times.
“We’re quite a traditional business structure, but you have to be ready to move with it. Because we are an independent business, we’re always ready to face uncertainty anyway. As a garden centre, our businesses are based on the weather, so we’re used to being held to changing situations. We have to be ready when the weather changes, but we have to be ready to adapt to other situations too.”
This article is part two of a five-part series on what the garden retail industry is doing to combat coronavirus. Click here (INSERT LINK) to read part one, and keep checking the Garden Centre Retail website to read the upcoming articles.