New Hopetoun Gardens, a garden centre in Broxburn, was among many retailers who were forced to suddenly close their doors when the pandemic hit in March last year.
The Scottish garden centre relied heavily on customer visits and face-to-face trading so the forced closure hit the business hard. With an average of 10,000 customers a month during a normal April and May, it missed out on the busiest trading months of the year. Profits dropped considerably and 28 of its 36 staff were furloughed.
In April 2020, New Hopetoun Gardens approached Bank of Scotland for support and received a £195,000 Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) funding package. This allowed the business to ensure it had sufficient cashflow, pay suppliers, care for the plants, and provide reassurance to its staff that operations will continue once restrictions have eased.
New Hopetoun Gardens introduced home delivery services for its customers and launched a new website six weeks ago to facilitate a click and collect service.
These measures have helped over the past few months but the decision after Christmas to give ‘non-essential’ status to the centre has hampered business prospects of opening before its busiest trading period in early spring.
Morag Macrae, joint owner of New Hopetoun Gardens, said: “The past year has been really challenging for us as a business. Most of our trading is done face-to-face and while we’re incredibly grateful to our fantastic customers who have used our click and collect and delivery service, we saw our revenue drop considerably. The change that saw us considered as a “non-essential” shop was quite a blow as we hoped to be open to take full benefit of our busy spring trading period.
“Thankfully, the support from Bank of Scotland has been a massive boost. It has allowed us to keep our operations running and keep us out of our overdraft which has been a huge relief.
“While times are still challenging, business has picked up considerably in March and we’re hoping we will be able to re-open soon to make the most out of our key trading period, when it is safe to do so.”