The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) Chairman, James Barnes, comments:
“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.
“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. We will continue our talks with DEFRA to secure a rescue package for this sector. The best option now is for the UK Government to pursue a simple Dutch-style compensation scheme, which will help save our horticultural industry.
“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.
“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.”
Alan Titchmarsh, MBE, comments:
“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.”
Safe Trading Guidance
The HTA has produced a Safe Trading Guidance which includes a series of recommendations to protect customers.
The guidance document has been based on insight from leading HTA retailers, the British Retail Consortium, and from government advice as a recommendation of best practice regarding social distancing. Cafes, restaurants and children’s play areas will not be allowed to reopen under the guidelines.
Recommendations include advice on customer numbers in stores, entrance and exit protocols, and queueing and checkout procedures. It also contains practical advice on how to protect the health and wellbeing of staff.
What customers can expect
- controlled access to car parks
- limits on customer numbers in store – the recommendation is 1 per 1000 square foot
- customers will be asked to shop with a maximum of one other person if possible and will be required to keep 2m distancing throughout the store and whilst queueing.
- cafes, restaurants and children’s play areas will not be allowed to reopen under the guidelines.
The HTA recently launched a website – plantsnearme.hta.org.uk – to help customers find local garden centres that are offering home delivery or click and collect services. Members of the public will now be able to use the website to see which businesses have reopened and are following the Safe Trading Guidance.