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Happy New Year! Review of 2020

Happy New Year! 2020 has been a year like no other. News and events that would have seemed more suited to dystopian fiction have become commonplace and virtually nothing is the same as it was just 12 months ago. We've isolated, we've clapped, we've eaten out to help out and we've bought an awful lot of loo roll.

The gardening industry has seen as much disruption as any other with enforced closures, cancelled shows and looming uncertainty over Brexit. Its has not all been bad news though, there have been winners as well as losers over the past year. So, this is our review of 2020.

The biggest single event to affect the horticultural industry over the last year has been lockdown. Gardens, garden centres and nurseries were forced to shut their doors to customers during their most profitable period. Flower shows were cancelled up and down the country and RHS Chelsea was closed for the first time since the war. The government was repeatedly petitioned to reopen outdoor plant areas where the risk of virus transmission was lower, including by The Sun's own Peter Seabrook who wrote to the Prime Minister personally.

Plant growers and sellers were forced to adapt to survive, with many moving their sales online. Sun Gardening ran a campaign to encourage people to support their independent nurseries. It was viewed by tens of thousands of people and was widely shared on social media.

Lady Lich@LadyLich
Brilliant Idea! Discovered @GreatAgapanthus through this and have just placed an order. Let's support our wonderful growers.

We were really pleased to see that public support was translating into actual sales which businesses need to survive.

Thankfully, while the lockdown (literally) closed some doors, it did open others. More people spent more time gardening than ever before. Some nurseries reported that their online sales in the Spring were, in fact, so successful that they had, to their surprise, had a record year.

The lifting of the lockdown in the summer meant that garden centres were able to recover some of their lost trade. The 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme was a huge boost to garden centre cafes and restaurants providing a much needed source of customers and revenue. Unfortunately, the continued Tier 3 and 4 restrictions and possibility of a third national lockdown means that the industry will be facing a difficult 2021.

The other major issue to affect the industry was Brexit, which in any other year would have taken centre stage. In the context of 2020 however, it feels like more of a footnote. Until the end of December nobody knew whether tariffs would be imposed on imported goods. This, in an industry that relies on plants, bulbs and flowers imported from countries such as the Netherlands as well as pots, furniture and sundries from places like Germany, posed a huge threat on top of the most difficult year in living memory. A crisis was averted thanks to the last-minute deal which means that, although there will be increased paperwork, things will continue in very much the same way.

It's at this point that we would typically make predictions for 2021. We, like everyone else, hope that the vaccine brings thing closer to normality by the Spring, although we suspect things won't be normal until 2022. While we know that the RHS intends to run some of its shows, we would not be surprised if they are cancelled (we hope not, though!). We hope that the restrictions will be lifted to at least some extent to allow more people to visit and enjoy gardens and garden centres. Most of all, we hope that small businesses are able to survive. There are thousands of people up and down the country growing plants and making products that make the British horticultural industry one of the best in the world.

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This story was published on: 02/01/2021

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