Seeds of frustration
Dobbies HQ stays shut while its English stores re-open
Dobbies: It’s HQ stays shut while other stores open
Britain’s garden centres have become a focus of the new ‘return to work’ border battle as horticulturalists warn of devastation to stock and jobs caused by the continued lockdown in Scotland.
While Dobbies’ – one of the UK’s biggest chains – will reopen for business across England on Wednesday its giant HQ near Edinburgh will stay shut.
James Barnes, chairman of the Horticultural Trades Association, says this is “not sustainable” and has called for more talks with the Scottish Government.
Mr Barnes, a former CEO at the company, expressed disappointment at the insistence by Holyrood ministers that Scotland’s garden nurseries must not open.
He said: “While we understand the Scottish Government’s medical rationale for not amending the current restrictions, we are disappointed to see a twin approach, which will confuse the public and will put the Scottish horticulture industry at a disadvantage to the rest of the UK.
“We have sought urgent talks with the Scottish Government to understand how garden centres can reopen as soon as is safely possible. It is important to have a date established so garden centres can adequately prepare and help staff back to work.
“The HTA has established a Safe Trading Guidance document for garden centres to follow to ensure a safe and managed reopening procedure. The illogicality of some retail outlets being able to sell plants while garden centres have to stay closed in Scotland is hugely frustrating for Scottish gardeners and our members alike.”
Mr Barnes said Klondyke Garden Centres based near Falkirk will not be allowed to open but also has premises south of the border, while Dobbies is the largest garden centre operator in the UK.
“Following this announcement its Edinburgh head office will remain closed, while its English stores will be allowed to open. That is not a sustainable proposition,” he said.
“We have repeatedly highlighted to both Westminster and Holyrood the plight of the UK horticultural sector and that opening garden centres would be part of solution to preventing up to a third of the nursery sector becoming insolvent.
“We welcome Westminster’s announcement today that garden centres will be allowed to reopen in England from Wednesday.
“We are in peak season, when 70% of plants sold are between March and June. This is not only a positive economic move but gardening benefits the mental health and well-being of so many people isolating at home and the importance of having something to do at home keeps you at home.”