"We are about 5% up on last year, which is quite amazing considering 75% of our workforce were off on Furlough for 6 weeks," says Neil Alcock Managing Director at Seiont Nurseries, when comparing the 2020 results with that of last year. As for many growers, it has been a challenging year for this Caernarfon (UK) based plug and liner producer, but all in all he is very pleased and looking forward to 2021 which will be a challenging year as well as the Brexit transition period ends on December 31, 2020. On top of that, the nursery is planning to expand and will introduce new varieties with Heuchera Frilly as their biggest launch.
Looking back on 2020
2020 has been challenging for obvious reasons, explains Alcock. "We had a slow start, then Covid lockdown, then a big surge in demand", he summarizes. The demand started to improve in May. "The public went crazy on buying plants from Mail Order companies. We supply most of the UK’s biggest online retailers and most of our production is in 9cm pots which are perfect for this market.
According to Alcock, the major challenge was dealing with a situation he had never faced before. "We had huge amounts of stock cancelled by the Garden Centre supply chain in March and Early April, our nursery was full and only 25% of the workforce was working so we had no choice but to cancel our incoming plant material, which was very difficult to do. Thankfully, most of our suppliers understood the situation but it was a very stressful time."
Production site Seiont Nurseries in Caernarfon
All in all good sales
They have been very busy through the summer and autumn catching up with production as we couldn’t propagate or pot for 6 weeks. All in all, sales have been good. "We are about 5% up on last year, which is quite amazing considering 75% of our workforce were off on Furlough for 6 weeks"
B2C website - LoveGardeningDirect.com
In the midst of the pandemic, they've have also launched their own B2C website with their parent company, Lovania. With this website, www.lovegardeningdirect.com, they offered their plants to the consumers. "We used this website to help clear plants, which had been cancelled during April and May. We made collections in trays of 20 and delivered by courier. We have stopped sales for now and will review for 2021."
Brexit and exports
Orders for 2021 are very strong, Alcock explains. "The pandemic has proved one thing; people want plants." They sell around 20% of their production across Europe, mainly France, Spain and Italy, and exports have been good this year. Also for next year orders are already coming in. "We have been very busy in November with many customers taking in orders to avoid possible extra costs after January 2021 as the Brexit transition phase will end on December 31. Early 2021 will be challenging as we still don’t know exactly how our Imports/Exports to and from the EU will be affected. We have prepared as best we can with the information we have at the moment. We are determined to carry on with as little disruption as possible!"
What more in 2021
At the moment, they are busy with increasing the production and are looking forward to expand their nursery next year. On top of that, they will also introduce new varieties. Heuchera Frilly is their biggest launch and they will also have Cordyline Lime Passion, which will be in smaller numbers in 2021 but bigger numbers in 2022 They are already taking orders for then.