Leading wholesaler and retail partner, the Vital Pet Group, has announced an extension of its Lifeline Fund until October, in line with the government's furloughing arrangements. The Fund offers Vital customers an opportunity to extend their credit terms with the company to help them through a difficult period of trading as a result of COVID-19. However, the wholesaler also says that there is evidence that brighter times are ahead for the independent sector and it is already starting to stock new lines.
Vital's Sales and Marketing Director Heather McManus says she has seen some evidence to support the recent Retail Times survey that reported that over a third of Brits (36%) are planning to use their local stores more often after lockdown*, "We're seeing evidence of there having been a slump in grocery in recent weeks with a corresponding increase in people using specialist and independent shops. This crisis has helped people focus on the value of local businesses and of course, many people are more comfortable shopping in smaller outlets where it may be easier to adopt social distancing. We hope this is a trend that will help the trade as lockdown restrictions start to ease."
The wholesaler has recently listed leading brands Lily's Kitchen and Edgar Cooper and is also stocking new lines from Billy and Margot. There are also new exclusives from a number of brands under the Pet Brands banner. Elkwood has a new range of vegetable-based dog chews, including some inspired by the seaside with shell, sea horse and star fish shapes and the inclusion of seaweed, which has a number of nutritional benefits.
Smart Garden have tapped into their extensive Chinese supply chain and are importing a large quantity of 3-ply disposable, medical-grade, face masks. They say this is a temporary measure to help their customers protect staff and shoppers for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We checked with the NHS to ensure we would not be depriving them and were told that such masks were in plentiful supply and that PPE shortages lay elsewhere, with gowns in particular” said Paris Natar, Smart’s Chairman.
With garden centres and other home and garden retailers re-opening across the United Kingdom and in Europe, Smart believe that this initiative will be welcomed. The masks come in bar-coded boxes of 50 so can also be sold to shoppers as a retail line.
Paris added “This is not something one should take any chances with so we have gone for fully compliant, TUV, CE and ISO certified masks. In particular, they conform to Medical Device Directive 93/42/EEC.”
Smart’s first consignment is already in transit from China and they expect to be delivering nationwide from Monday June 22nd.
Management at a Bradford garden centre have thanked members of the public who have made the reopening of the centre safe and successful.
Like many garden centres nationwide, Tong Garden Centre opened its doors to the public last Wednesday after being closed to visitors for seven weeks.
Of the reopening, Tong's Managing Director Mark Farnsworth said: "Early trading has been good on every level. Our customers have been brilliant, everyone has adapted to the changes we have made in store really well and are respecting the new measures.
"Our team have been fantastic; we have tried to offer the same great service but two metres apart - we've had some great feedback and that has boosted us all. Our trading has been strong, whilst we have been in lockdown there has definitely been a build up of demand and we've been pleased to see so many customers return so quickly."
The centre also reports strong online sales, particularly of garden furniture, during lockdown and has launched a new Click and Collect service this week.
Mark Portman, Managing Director of UK & Ireland at Evergreen Garden Care, said “We’ve seen the Coronavirus pandemic impacting the gardening industry severely since early March. With garden centres now able to reopen, we face a new challenge and that is the unprecedented consumer demand, for growing media in particular. There’s never been such a high demand, because the UK’s passion for gardening is skyrocketing.
We are doing everything we can to support our customers in meeting this demand, while also ensuring the safety of our team as our priority. We’ve been implementing the new social distancing guidelines across all three of our manufacturing plants and introduced new shift patterns to ensure we are producing the maximum amount of product that we can – that’s both our growing media plants working seven days a week with multiple shifts in place. We’ve prioritised our growing media product range for the time being, to focus on a core number of products to help us meet our customer orders. Where we may not have full availability of our range, we are offering alternative products, whether that’s different pack sizes, formats, variants or brands. We have extended lead times in terms of delivery and are working to reduce them, our sales team are focused on keeping customers in the loop to ensure we’re working together through this challenging time.
Our other categories including plant food, pest and disease control and weedkillers are all at normal production and we have good stock levels across these. We expect to see uplifts across these categories as the summer continues and the new gardening fans expand their knowledge and look for prevention and solutions for common issues around their gardens.