Garden centres working ‘every waking hour’ but future after coronavirus remains unclear

Ben Youngs, one of the directors of North Walsham Garden Centre. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Ben Youngs, one of the directors of North Walsham Garden Centre. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE - Credit: Archant

Garden centres have reported a surge in demand as people turn to gardening in self-isolation.

Some centres have closed all together while others are offering delivery-only services.

Business has been buoyant at North Walsham Garden Centre, which has stayed open for deliveries only.

Director Ben Youngs said five people were still working there while the other 20 staff were on furlough.

Mr Youngs said demand for deliveries had been strong, but they were only doing about a third of the business they would in a ‘normal’ year.

He said: “This would normally be our peak time, which sets us up for the whole year. The weather has also been brilliant for gardening, I would have expected it to be one of our most successful years if it wasn’t for [the lockdown].

“There’s been a lot of demand for things like fence paint, bedding plants and tomato plants.

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“There’s been a huge rise in sales of vegetable seeds as well - a lot of kids are learning how to garden and there was definitely some people preparing for the worst.”

Mr Youngs said the centre’s restaurant was closed, and aside from himself and his aunt, who is also a director, other staff members working all lived alone and were careful to practice social distancing.

He said unlike some businesses they had not needed to throw away any stock.

Mr Youngs said: “It’s mostly nurseries that have been affected by that. We’ve been really careful with our ordering, and getting just what we need from local nurseries.”

James Debbage, joint owner of Green Pastures in Bergh Apton which is closed apart from the farm shop and post office, said he was unsure if his garden centre would survive after the pandemic.

He said: “I hope we do but it is difficult to know what is round the corner because the whole situation evolves day by day and we just react to it.”

Mr Debbage has had to stand down half of staff although some have been redeployed to other areas of the business.

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Demand, however, for gardening products has swelled with Mr Debbage ‘working every waking hour’ to fulfil orders.

But he said costs were up, as work was now more labour intensive, so may not reflect in profit.