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Green shoots of recovery for garden centre with launch of delivery service during coronavirus outbreak

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Altnagelvin Garden Centre owner Pauline Peilow

Altnagelvin Garden Centre owner Pauline Peilow

Altnagelvin Garden Centre owner Pauline Peilow

A garden centre offering to deliver plants to customers in lockdown has been swamped with orders.

Staff at Altnagelvin Garden Centre in Londonderry worried they would lose all their stock after being told to close.

However, being able to offer delivery to customers has been a lifeline for the business.

"We have an excessive amount of stock in the centre that we ordered last October and November for delivery in January and February to kick off the gardening season," owner Pauline Peilow said.

"We have roses, all different types of ornamental trees, hedging and all kinds of shrubs, many of which are coming in flower now, and heathers.

"Now is also the time that we would sell vegetable seeds and grass seeds, so we really had a lot of stock that should have been sold.

"With the coronavirus situation, we can't sell garden plants from the centre because it has been deemed non-essential, but we were told it was fine to do home deliveries.

"We just started it on Monday and we have already been inundated with people who want to get out into their gardens and get planting. It is a slow process, though, because a lot of people who come into our garden centre don't really know what they want.

"It is easy to help them when they are there in front of you, but it takes more time over the phone. We have put what is available on Facebook, but when you sell plants you need to keep the Facebook page updated so you don't take an order for stock you no longer have.

"We are asking people to be patient with us because we are a small, family-run business doing the best we can, but we really do want to make this work, for everyone's sake."

Horticultural expert Trevor Edwards said nurseries' and garden centres' inability to sell their stock could seriously damage the industry.

"It is the nurseries who supply the retail trade and the garden centres who will have committed to vast amount of sales that will now not take place," Mr Edwards explained.

"The individual potential loss to any garden centre and nursery will be crippling because the horticultural industry is very focused on the season and this coronavirus crisis has come at the wrong season for our industry.

"The reality is that 80% of the annual income of a garden centre is going to come within the next three months.

"This shows you how catastrophic this is."

Many horticultural businesses are in a similar position to the Altnagelvin Garden Centre, according to the Horticultural Trades Association.

The organisation said millions of pounds of stock had already been lost.

It estimated that the total potential loss in the UK could grow to as much as £687m by the end of June.

Belfast Telegraph