Matt Jones has reported for the Powys County Times that Midway Plants garden centre in Penybont near Llandrindod Wells, Wales, is desperate to reopen and “their situation could get critical if they are not allowed to open their doors again soon”.
Owners Gill and Dave Holt argue that Welsh garden centres have been forced onto an uneven playing field as neighbouring English centres have been allowed to stay open during lockdown. Supermarkets everywhere, meanwhile, are raking in huge profits and many are extending their horticultural and almost every other item you could usually find in your local garden centre or nursery.
As we approach what is traditionally the busiest time of year for garden centres and nurseries, the start of the spring growing season, independent businesses are in anguish about having to keep their doors closed while retail giants hoover up their trade.
The Holts told their local paper that: “We’re still closed while supermarkets and hardware stores carry on selling gardening products, and all English garden centres are in full swing and customers can look around and buy whatever plants and products they like.
“The worry is not knowing, we still have no idea when we’re going to be able to open back up. If we aren’t allowed to open up next week on March 12 when the Welsh Government conduct their three-week review it does start to get critical. We’re a seasonal business, growing plants months in advance, ahead of spring and ahead of the summer bedding plant season”.
Mrs Holt pointed the finger at Tesco and Aldi, which is lining up traditional garden centre products at the front of their store (much like our local Waitrose here in Berkhamsted, which might be in England but is still seeing supermarkets encroaching ever further onto the turf of specialist independents).
The Holts have operated their garden centre for eleven years and have tried to keep business going during lockdown with click and collect. More than 11,000 loyal customers have signed a petition for garden centres in Wales to re-open as soon as possible.
As Mrs Holt says, most of their stock, including those all-important plants, is kept outside in the fresh air and there are hand sanitisers and screens at the tills, along with the usual mask and social distancing regulations.
“We are preparing all our outdoor plant displays with the plants we have grown over the last year, for hopefully re-opening for browsing customers as soon as the Welsh Government allows – how long is a piece of string?”