Hopes fade of garden centres opening before the May bank holiday

Hopes for a resumption of trading by garden centres before the next bank holiday are withering. So, the HTA is asking growers for evidence to build the case for compensation from Government.

On Thursday, Alan Titchmarsh wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the HTA was hopeful of a go ahead to reopen garden centres within a week. These hopes have now all but disappeared after the 3-week lockdown extension announced on Thursday and discussions with Government on Friday. Although the association and much of the national press continue to press the case.

It seems the best hope now of saving the businesses of growers, garden retailers and landscapers rests with the provision of a compensation fund by Government. The HTA is pushing hard for £250m to be made available, a figure which could rise the longer the lockdown lasts.

Government needs more data

But the Government is still asking for more proof that support it has already offered industry, such as CBIL scheme - the Government backed loan guarantee scheme, is not working for this sector. A recent quote from a cabinet minister was “the only thing that really matters is data”. 

In particular the HTA needs to hear from companies: growers, retailers and landscapers, who have encountered problems raising loans from banks.

Your data can be sent in confidence to services@hta.org.uk.

Government urged to be more proactive

The HTA is also asking Government why it is not being more proactive in relaxing EU state aid regulations that restrict funding to 50% of the maximum available. But even this is not likely to be enough.

James Barnes, Chairman of the HTA said, “That although changes to this particular aspect of CBILS would help, the scale of stock losses faced by the industry could not all be covered by taking on additional debt. The balance sheets and profitability of the sector could just not withstand this.”

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Here's what others have said...
P S Billingham,  28 Apr 2020:
...The situation where B&Q etc are allowed to be open and selling plants and gardening products and we are not is TOTALLY unacceptable and the HTA and other industry heavyweights should be beating down the dooors of Whitehall to get this severe injustice sorted, this week!!!
PCE Supply chain solutions,  20 Apr 2020:
...HTA working well for the industry, but many garden centre groups could be doing more to shift the mountain of plants in the supply chain. The network of garden centres across the country should service gardeners local to their area with plants. Many of these centres have transport, a means of capturing orders and a database of customers. One end of the supply chain a mountain of plants, the other end high demand for plants as demonstrated by the existing on line providers. If not already in place a basic order catchment, payment and despatch internet platform can be implemented within 48 hours. Plant stock could be moving and livelihoods could be saved by the end of this week. Well done to those centres and wholesalers who have made this leap of faith, maybe not for profitable reward but active support to UK Growers. Such a pity some larger garden centre groups sit back and watch growers struggle.
Nigel,  19 Apr 2020:
...And yet on the morning of Sunday 19th April, B and Q announce that they are starting to re-open stores for essential gardening supplies, sounds a bit unfair to me.

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