Garden centres across Warwickshire are helping local people prepare to take holidays – in their own gardens!
Nurseries and garden centres were given the all-clear to re-open a fortnight ago with social distancing measures strictly in place and elements such as cafes still closed, and they have been doing brisk business across the county.
Customers have been sprucing up their outside spaces – with compost and furniture among the biggest sellers.
Stratford Garden Centre sprang into action shortly after lockdown by implementing a local delivery service to take supplies to customers within a six-mile radius, before then setting up a collection system and then opening its doors when Government relaxed restrictions on the sector.
Helen Lloyd, a director of the family-owned business, said: “We realised early on that people were still very keen to do work in their outside spaces and that for many that was a release from lockdown.
“Once the deliveries were in full swing, we then set up the collection service, and that has allowed us to bring furloughed staff back into the business.
“Customers were really thankful and we have had a really strong uptake and although it has been labour intensive it has really been worth doing.
“When we were given the greenlight to re-open, we formed a team to have responsibility for social distancing and hygiene and that has worked very well indeed. People have been very understanding and realise that the measures are in place for their safety and that of our staff.
“It has certainly rekindled people’s interest in their gardens and we can’t quite believe how much compost we have sold. We had 48 pallets of compost bags delivered – and they sold in a week.”
Family-owned Hilltop Garden Centre in Shilton has done a brisk trade in garden furniture as people realise their summer holiday options will be limited.
Grant Ashby, who runs the centre with his brother Kevin, said they had reconfigured the layout of the business to meet the restrictions.
“We have created a new entrance so it is separate from the exit and that allows us to control how many people are in the centre. It was good that we could learn off the best practice which has been set by the supermarket chains.
“As well as plants, people appear to have been growing patience as well – they have been really understanding!
“The re-opening came a bit late for vegetable growing, but we have done really well with bedding plants and also garden furniture. It seems that people have been investing in new furniture using money they had earmarked for summer holidays which will now be spent a lot closer to home – in the back garden.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, portfolio holder for economic development and Leader of Warwickshire County Council, praised the businesses for implementing social distancing measures – and customers for their patience.
“The trade that these garden centres have been doing in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis is testament to the innovations and swift adaptability of our businesses in Warwickshire,” she said.
“It is clear that businesses are going to have to change the way they have been used to operating for the foreseeable future. This is an excellent example of just that and I am delighted by the way these businesses have demonstrated such ability to flourish safely.”