When garden centres resume trading...

When garden centres resume trading in the UK, how will they preserve social distancing? Gardenforum looks at what measures will need to be considered.

An educated guess would be that a partial re-opening of garden centres will be one of the early phases in easing the lock down. The HTA is certainly lobbying Government that this should be the case. 

It would help many who continue in isolation at home and would offer a lifeline to growers, who face composting many of their crops.

Will it be a full opening?

When the lockdown is loosened, there will remain a need for a significant level of social distancing to prevent a second wave of the virus, maybe well into next year.

A limited opening could include the sale of plants and related gardening goods, food from farm shops and pet foods. It is likely that restaurants will remain closed, maybe for several months. Areas where social distancing is difficult or that are not gardening related, such as gift areas, may also need to be cordoned off.

Managing Social Distancing

Garden centres will need to assess how staff and customers can be kept safe and allow the business to trade within Government guidelines. They will need to plan…

  • How will customers enter and leave the garden centre?
  • Will there be a one way system, to minimise customers passing? How would this be enforced?
  • It is likely garden centres will be inundated once they re-open. How will customer flow be regulated at the entrances and queues managed?
  • Where will tills be located and how will social distancing be maintained? A perspex screen used by supermarkets would make scanning a bag of compost difficult. Some are considering opening every other till to increase spacing.
  • Will cash payments be banned? Introducing minimum spends has been suggested to reduce store visits.
  • Will staff be divided into teams that don’t meet, so that if a member of one team contracts the disease forcing their co-workers to isolate, the garden centre can continue trading with the other team.
  • What provision will be made for deep cleaning if a member of staff contracts the disease? What sanitising measures will be put in for staff, customers and goods inwards.
  • It has been suggested that stores stop playing music, so people don’t move too close to hear each other.
  • Will home deliveries continue?
  • Much of this will need to be established before deciding how many staff to bring back from furlough.

The HTA is working on providing a guidance based on discussions with Government, but couldn’t be sure when it would be sent to members.

Garden centres should be developing a plan for their restart so they are ready if there is an early lifting of restrictions. Staff who are on furlough need to be kept in the picture and will need training in new procedures when they return to work.

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