With garden centres across the UK having been closed for weeks, affecting revenue significantly, owners have been working with sector specialists Malcolm Scott Consultants to plan for the ‘new normal’ in the hope that they can reopen in the coming weeks.
Andrew Burton of MSC said: “With all UK garden centres having been closed for over four weeks, the latest, tentative feedback is that we hope to see some form of opening in the coming weeks. The BBC reported on 29th April that the Environment Minister Edwin Poots has suggested garden centres should be allowed to reopen, if they can manage social distancing.
“There will be a ‘new normal’ when it comes to operations, and we’re working with our clients during this time on both short term and long term strategies to help them focus on the future.
“Steps are in place at centres to implement careful social distancing measures, and we’ve advised our clients to expect to restrict customer numbers within the retail areas for the foreseeable future and to structure their sites accordingly.
“It has been heartening to see so many calls from prolific figures including Alan Titchmarsh and David Domoney to reopen centres, but ultimately it’s an undisputed fact that the safety of staff and customers has to take priority. Giving customers a different option to buy their gardening products, in spacious environments garden centres do provide, also releases the pressure of social distancing controls for retailers currently open too. With that in mind, we’re now looking at a number of key factors to alter centre operations moving forward in anticipation of re-opening,” he said.
Burton said that MSC was in discussions with clients in relation to devising layouts and management operations to support longer term click and collect facilities and home delivery services, create environments that supported customer and staff safety ongoing and to create permanent food and convenience retail solutions for the local community.
He added: “There is no question that centres will struggle to recover from the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, particularly as more than 20 per cent of most centres’ revenue comes from their restaurants and cafes; which we don’t believe will fully reopen for at least three months after the retail areas.
“However, we are doing all we can to reassess a modern centre’s offering to the local community, and to help them respond to that community’s needs. We are working with centres across the country to help them both relaunch as seamlessly as possible when the Government decides it is safe to lift some restrictions, and also to plan for the future looking at things including changes in what a garden centre offers, its departmental layout and customer flow and added attractions.”