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VIEWPOINT

Preparing for Brexit is vital to ensure that garden retail continues its recovvery from the pandemic VICKY NUTTALL, DIRECTOR OF GIMA While Covid-19 has ravaged the UK economy and left so many sectors in tatters, garden retail has emerged fighting. We have always been a close-knit, collaborative industry and our united determination to survive the worst economic crisis to hit during peacetime has paid dividends. Garden retail has worked around the clock and, against all odds, staged a remarkable turnaround that has exceeded everyone’s expectations. I am immensely proud of the sector for achieving such a formidable result in the face of such adversity. This time last year, talk of a crisis on the scale of which we are experiencing would have been unthinkable and, as the year draws to a close, it’s important that we take time to reflect on the achievements that our sector has made. When national lockdown was announced in March, the odds were truly stacked against us, as reality sunk in that the critical Easter and May bank holiday sales season would be a write-off. The campaign to get garden centres re-opened before lockdown was fully lifted was an incredible success that threw retailers and the supply chain a lifeline; not to mention the widely documented benefits for the nation’s mental and physical wellbeing. In previous years, a poor spring would have seen retailers struggle to make up for lost sales later in the season, but 2020 was an exception to the rule. As the nation emerged from lockdown to dig for victory, demand for gardening goods went through the roof, lead times for certain products headed skywards as the cogs of supply chains started turning once more and suppliers rose to the challenge of overflowing order books – no mean feat at a time when implementing social distancing was vital for maintaining Covid-secure workplaces. Not only did heightened demand carry on throughout summer, but it extended the season well into autumn, resulting in garden retail emerging as a beacon of success

during a pandemic that has decimated high streets up and down the country. With every day that goes by, reports of potential Covid-19 vaccines offer hope that a degree of normality may begin to resume in 2021. We must not, however, rest on our laurels, as the final countdown to Brexit is under way. New Year’s Eve formally marks the end of the transition period and change will affect everyone, from suppliers to retailers. It’s critical to prepare now and be ready; none of us can afford to bury our heads in the sand. It is frustrating that, at the time of writing in late November, it remained unclear whether the UK would secure a trade deal with the EU. However, despite uncertainty, guaranteed changes for business will come into effect from 1st January, when the UK leaves the Single Market and Customs Union. With the clock ticking, concerns are widespread, from looming bureaucracy to certification of plants, seeds and bulbs; potential inspections and correct documentation. The process of importing applies to any business that’s buying from an EU-based company, so it’s imperative that we all understand our administrative responsibilities and liabilities. I am aware of concern among GIMA’s EUbased members that their customers in the UK aren’t fully geared-up for importing from 1st January. For anyone who is still unsure, the GIMA UK Transition Hub is an essential information resource that’s regularly updated to provide members with a wealth of information to steer businesses through this period of uncertainty and change. We are also witnessing an unfolding crisis at some of the UK’s ports which threatens to derail garden retail’s recovery and disrupt the flow of stock ahead of next season. Reports are emerging of problems importing goods due to logjams at ports, while the cost of shipping freight is soaring. A BBC News report, available online, cited importers who claimed that some shipping firms had quadrupled their freight costs. Fears

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are growing of interruption to deliveries, with inevitable knock-on effects throughout the supply chain. Some suppliers are stockpiling goods ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period at the same time as other businesses are ramping-up their imports to meet demand post-lockdown. To add to the congestion, there’s a backlog of containers of PPE clogging-up ports, as a result of the pandemic. Some shipping firms are reported to be limiting the quantity of cargo they will haul to the UK while others say they’re waiting for empty containers that are stuck at ports across Europe to be shipped back to Asia. Bottlenecks at vital trade hubs risk extending lead times for suppliers that are reliant on imports while the rising cost of shipping will have a harmful financial impact. LOFA is warning that the crisis threatens to disrupt supplies of garden-related goods in the run-up to the spring season, at a time when the sector is anticipating heightened levels of demand. A whirlwind of converging forces – Brexit, Covid-19 and port logjams – will undoubtedly result in further economic turbulence over the next few months. It is essential that we all hold our nerve and remember that spring 2021 has the potential to build on this year’s achievements. Garden retail is ideally positioned to capture the interest of millions of households who took up gardening during lockdown and, with overseas travel and holidays almost certainly off the cards next spring, gardening and enjoying outdoor spaces will be high on consumers’ agendas. Whatever challenges our departure from the EU throws at businesses, GIMA will be at their side, working tirelessly to assist members and strengthen the sector’s recovery in the New Year. > For further information about GIMA, please call (01959) 564947 or email info@gima.org.uk

December 2020 23

Profile for Garden Trade News

GTN December 2020 - Garden Trade News, UK  

In this issue of news and information for garden centre professionals: Noma is coming for you. Back to the future – the year that was and wh...

GTN December 2020 - Garden Trade News, UK  

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