In this article, the Horticultural Trades Association reacts on the roadmap out of lockdown for England and irst Minister’s statement on lockdown restrictions in Scotland
HTA's statement on roadmap out of lockdown for England
James Barnes, Chairman of the HTA, said: “The importance of plants and gardening and their contribution to the health and wellbeing of the nation was recognised by government ministers in England, and it is fantastic that garden centres here could remain open. Last year, more than 3 million people took up gardening for the first time and our members are keen to support these new enthusiasts and their long-standing customers, as they prepare for another good season.
A timetable for the process of getting out of lockdown is therefore welcome and encouraging, but there is a long way to go before the horticulture sector can return to any sort of normality.
With the most important trading months for catering during the winter already lost and the full re-opening of indoor catering not until at least May, there is still plenty to cause concern amongst our retailer members.
We know that consumer confidence in the safety of garden centre environments is higher than in other retail and want to support our members as they begin planning the safe re-opening of their catering premises, but clarity is still needed from Government on what constitutes an outdoor space and what social distancing rules hospitality will have to follow.
The whole supply chain, including our grower members, could then benefit from the return to strong sales figures of last summer that this would encourage. We look forward to the governments of the devolved nations following suit and publishing clear timetables, giving clarity to members in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.”
Reacting to the First Minister’s statement on lockdown restrictions in Scotland.
James Barnes, Chairman of the HTA, said: “We are bitterly disappointed that following the First Minister’s statement today, the horticulture sector remains unclear on when it can realistically expect the re-opening of garden centres. The ‘indicative timescale’ for easing restrictions is unhelpful to an industry that relies on a unique Scottish-based supply chain for perishable products. Indeed, if the public health situation continues to improve then the Scottish Government should look at whether the timelines could be shortened. If this doesn’t happen, we will continue to see tens of thousands of plants being skipped or composted.
Plants and gardens provide enormous benefits to mental and physical health and wellbeing, something we know is in huge demand as people continue to manage the long-term impact of this pandemic. This was a contributing factor in the decision to open garden centres more than three weeks earlier than other retailers in the first lockdown.
The industry has already proved it can implement robust social distancing processes and our safe trading protocol was the most stringent within the retail sector. YouGov polls showed that customers had the highest confidence in garden centres as one of the safest environments in which to shop.
The longer this goes on the more difficult it becomes for smaller, independent businesses to regain the customers who have, through necessity, changed where they shop, and to recover from the financial impact of this pandemic. The special case for garden centres has been well made and is well respected but seems to have been totally overlooked by the first minister and her team.
We understand the need for caution and support the Government in their ambition to bring the virus under control and we stand ready to work with them on establishing a better way forward for horticulture across Scotland.”
Horticultural Trades Association
19 High Street Theale
Reading, West Berkshire
RG7 5AH, United Kingdom
+44 (0)118 930 3132