GARDEN and homeware stores across the region will close their doors this weekend following Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that they will classed as non-essential retailers from Boxing Day as mainland Scotland enters a level four lockdown.
It is the first time they will cease trading since May, when garden centres were among the first retailers to reopen following the first lockdown.
Reacting to the development, Neil Ogston, owner of Castle Douglas Garden Centre, yesterday said: “It’s a nuisance right enough, but it depends how long it’s going to last. The coffee shop is the big thing from our point of view, at the moment it takes in more money than the garden centre, but once you get into February there’s a lot of forward planning, people buying seeds, trays, that sort of thing and it builds and builds after that, so January is an important time but mainly for the organising on our side but suppliers will be closed as well so that’s another problem.
“From a business point of view, we’ve got plenty of space and we’re generally quiet and can control people coming in and out, it’s dead easy for us in that respect.
“But whether we are essential is a hard call really, the coffee shop is the big thing and of course we do understand that you can have issues there.”
He hopes it won’t last too long and added: “It’s very important into February having the garden centres open again for people to plan forward in what they want to do, it’s a huge time and it doesn’t take long for the weather to suddenly change.”
Meanwhile, James Clark, Director of Policy and Communications at the Horticultural Trades Association, said: “The news that Scotland has decided to tighten the definition of what is included as ‘non-essential retail’ to include garden centres is hugely disappointing.
“Although the new strain of the virus is concerning and clearly something that demands action, we firmly believe garden centres are essential for enabling better mental and physical wellbeing for people who are trying to manage the impact of restrictions on daily life.
“There is little to no evidence that garden centres are a covid transmission risk – in fact they provide large and airy environments, which have been enhanced by the introduction of first-class, tailored social distancing measures – and should be able to stay open. Allowing ‘click and collect’ services provides only the barest of business needs – we know from the last lockdown that only 15-20% of sales were achieved in this way.”