Manager of Honiton garden centre anticipates positive rebound following Covid-19 shutdown

PUBLISHED: 13:33 01 April 2020 | UPDATED: 14:54 03 April 2020

Combe Garden Centre in Honiton. Ref mhh 23 19TI 5952. Picture: Terry Ife

Combe Garden Centre in Honiton. Ref mhh 23 19TI 5952. Picture: Terry Ife

Archant

The manager of a Honiton garden centre says he is optimistic that the business will rebound positively once the Covid-19 pandemic is over.

James Trevett said all full-time and part-time staff at the garden centre will be furloughed to keep their employment safe.

He said the business made several provisions before the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a lockdown of most businesses and restaurants across the country.

Mr Trevett said: “We set up straight away to support customers self-isolating with free delivery. The day before we closed was bonkers – we had our second busiest ever day.”

Mr Trevett said the garden centre closed its doors a day before Mr Johnson’s restrictions were announced, after he and the staff agreed it would be immoral to keep trading amid a pandemic.

He said: “There were all of these people running around knowing they were being locked down – we were looking at it saying, ‘it’s great for profits but it’s morally wrong’.

“We were looking at all of these people with no care for social distancing, so I had a conversation with Combe Estate and agreed that we needed to close as a moral decision.”

This week, the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) asked the Government for financial assistance of up to £250m to help the industry avoid collapse. It warned that up to a third of producers could go bust.

Mr Trevett said: “We were hoping to furlough staff to make sure no-one went without.

“We can’t just close like a car dealership. They can close their doors and the cars will be worth the same amount in three months.

“We will have £100,000 worth of plants out the back which need daily attention.”

Despite the challenge ahead, Mr Trevett said he is optimistic for the business’s future.

He said: “I think that being a smaller garden centre sets us in a better position.

“We have a local, and loyal, customer base, and although I am not doing much now to give them what they need, I hope to in the future.

“We realise that this is not going to be over overnight. We are in this for weeks, maybe months. Around 40 per cent of our annual turnover is made in the three months coming up.

“The nurseries are the ones really stuck – they will be sitting on hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of plants.”


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