Covid-19 update Tuesday 7th April

Current topics in the Coronavirus debate include should garden centres be classified as essential retailers and are retailers paying their suppliers? Plus an update on the Furlough process.

The Government is wrong. Garden centres are essential, and we need them reopened

So says Alan Titchmarsh in the Daily Telegraph. The Times reported his plea for ministers to classify centres as “essential” retailers, alongside grocers and pharmacies, in order to keep the sector afloat.

The HTA has reported on its conversation with Government saying it continues to hold constructive discussions with Government officials on the grower stock compensation proposal. It is also exploring how garden centre reopening could be done in the right way at the right time. It is calling on its members to lobby their local MP.

Garden centres are being left to rot

The Sunday Times said..., “garden centres [are being] left to rot in the coronavirus shutdown”.

As an example it talked to Stewarts Garden Centres. ‘Martin Stewart had bet big. After years of investing in his three garden centres, the managing director of Stewarts “loaded up with stock” ahead of peak planting season between March and June. Then the coronavirus struck. Now Stewart owes £1.5m to suppliers with no prospect of sales at what should be his busiest time of the year.

“We had never looked so good,” Stewart, 62, said. “Now our biggest months are being taken away. It will take three years for us to get back to where we were.” Stewart has furloughed 270 staff and has mothballed the business.

Now his attention has turned to his suppliers. He is in talks with his bank, Santander, about an emergency loan to keep them afloat, because if growers go bust, when Stewarts eventually reopens there will be little to sell. “We want them to get through,” Stewart said. “It is my responsibility to pass this money on.”

Shame on those who have used bullying tactics

Charlie Lacey MD at Stearn and former COO of Decco praised companies who have said they will be paying all of their suppliers what they owe them, on time. “We are all in this together, customers, suppliers, our customers’ customers, even our competitors…

“Shame on those who have used bullying tactics, imposed unilateral demands for delayed payment, threatened to withdraw preferential status, and said they will deduct unauthorised amounts from their payments.“

Westland forced to furlough half its 750 staff

The Sunday Times also featured Westland Horticulture saying, ‘Almost half its £130m annual sales come in April and May. Although sales through garden centres have slumped, co-founder Ed Conroy said demand from individuals had been “absolutely crazy”, with people eager to spruce up their gardens.

‘Yet supply chains are not geared up for online distribution. “Handling live plants in volume is challenging,” Conroy said. As a result, he has been forced to furlough half his 750 staff.’

Petition to keep Garden Centres open

Over 5000 have signed the petition to keep garden centres open. 


Update on the Furlough process by Paul Basham

  •  You can now add overtime and contractual commission into the 80% calculation
  • The decision to furlough company Directors needs to be formally adopted as a company decision; we are recommending that you should record the decision in a formal Board meeting minute and personal letter to the Director that they countersign to indicate acceptance.  
  • You can rehire anyone who "stopped working for you" after 28 February and furlough them.  This is not just for reasons of redundancy, so you could potentially rehire someone that resigned or left by mutual agreement.  
  • you can furlough any employee with caring responsibilities, not just those at risk of redundancy.  Perhaps the most practical examples are to furlough those with childcare commitments or looking after someone in their household that is "shielding" who cannot work from home.  
  • To apply you need to have a PAYE online account
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