James Barnes, Chairman of the HTA, said: “The importance of plants and gardening and their contribution to the health and wellbeing of the nation was recognised by government ministers in England, and it is fantastic that garden centres here could remain open. Last year more than three million people took up gardening for the first time and our members are keen to support these new enthusiasts and their long-standing customers, as they prepare for another good season.
“A timetable for the process of getting out of lockdown is therefore welcome and encouraging, but there is a long way to go before the horticulture sector can return to any sort of normality.
“With the most important trading months for catering during the winter already lost and the full re-opening of indoor catering not until at least May, there is still plenty to cause concern amongst our retailer members.
“We know that consumer confidence in the safety of garden centre environments is higher than in other retail and want to support our members as they begin planning the safe re-opening of their catering premises, but clarity is still needed from Government on what constitutes an outdoor space and what social distancing rules hospitality will have to follow.
“The whole supply chain, including our grower members, could then benefit from the return to strong sales figures of last summer that this would encourage.
We look forward to the governments of the devolved nations following suit and publishing clear timetables, giving clarity to members in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.”