Response from The HTA: opening of garden centres in Northern Ireland

The HTA Chairman, James Barnes, comments:  “While we welcome the Northern Ireland Executive’s announcement that garden centres will be included in the first group of essential retailers to open in the country, we need to know when this will be to help guarantee that garden centres have enough time to get staff back to work and allow them to put in place the necessary measures to ensure the safety of both their customers and their staff.

“Opening gardening centres is critical for the industry. We are in peak season, when 70% of plants sold are between March and June. 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 Northern Ireland nurseries. They are in the middle of a perfect financial storm of perishability and seasonality, who have already disposed of tonnes of plants. The best option is for the Northern Ireland Executive to join with us and seek a UK-wide simple Dutch-style compensation scheme, which will help save our horticultural industry.”

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 – – 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.

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