Yesterday afternoon, in advance of garden centres re-opening today in England, I went to Megaplants in Doddington, Cambridgshire. Megaplants is a small plant centre that got permission to re-open two weeks ago.
“Every day has been like a bank holiday since then,” explained owners John & Lorraine Cutteridge. “We got permission from Fenland District Council because we sell garden tools/hardware as well as plants and we’ve had plenty of visits from environmental health officers who have been very helpful in ensuring our social distancing measures are good.”
While I was at Megaplants the thing that struck me most was how carefully the staff were observing social distancing, particularly with customers. The visit was a safe and secure experience so it’s no wonder they have had such high sales and large numbers of positive comments on social media.
Garden centres across the country will now be hoping for more of the same from today. If the Megaplants experience is anything to go by customers will be buying a lot of plants as soon as centres open.
We should all be very grateful for the work done by the HTA and the media support generated that raised the profile of garden centres and gardening to levels never known before. Thank you.
But all that good work could be outdone so, so easily if centres get it wrong. We only need a tabloid newspaper to publish photos of people NOT social distancing in garden centres and we could all be back to square one.
The Prime Ministers message of “Stay Alert” may have caused confusion on Sunday and Monday but it now seems to make huge sense for garden centre staff: “Stay Alert” and make sure your customers and staff have a safe and enjoyable garden centre experience and don’t let anyone turn their visit into a social gathering.
The YouGov survey found that 70% of people who have visited a garden centre in the past feel comfortable about coming back. The next few days will hopefully be steady days to test procedures before the weekend. With good weather forecast it could be a very busy weekend. More than ever garden centre owners and staff will need to “Stay Alert” to keep themselves and their customers safe.
Trevor Pfeiffer, GTN Xtra
Meanwhile... The HTA urges its members to take a thoughtful and considered approach to reopening:
HTA Chairman, James Barnes, said: “Following on from Friday’s announcement that garden centres in Wales can reopen, we welcome the news that centres in England will also be allowed to reopen from Wednesday.
“For garden centres who are reopening, it is essential that we proceed with the utmost caution. I am aware that many businesses have already begun to implement very robust policies around social distancing, but we now need everyone in the industry to download the HTA’s Safe Trading Guidance from our website. The Guidance provides specific protocols for garden centres and has been shared with government. You do not have to be an HTA member to access the document.
“In order to provide reassurance to members of the public, the HTA will be asking all their members and non-members listed on the plantsnearme.hta.org.uk website to indicate when they have reopened and that they are following the Safe Trading Guidance.
“The Guidance is there to help develop a thoughtful and considered approach to reopening, so we would encourage business owners to take their time to go through it, and to contact the HTA or their local authority if any aspect is unclear. And remember that you do not need to open on Wednesday - if you are not ready then you must wait until you are.”
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