Chichester nursery welcomes reopening of some DIY stores – and hopes garden centres will follow

The UK’s second largest wholesale supplier of plants and flowers, which has a nursery in Chichester, has said the easing of restrictions on selling plants through retail outlets could be ‘life-saving news’ for its business.

Newlands Nursery in Chichester
Newlands Nursery in Chichester

Newey Ltd, which has 40 acres of nurseries in Chichester, including Newlands Nursery, has welcomed the reopening of some DIY stores, such as B&Q, across the country.

Following heavy lobbying from the ornamental plants and horticultural industry, the company is hoping the UK’s 2,000 garden centres may also reopen soon.

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Nick Gibb, the MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, has written to Government ministers to highlight the impact of garden centre closures on local businesses and ask them to consider reopening them.

He said garden centres were ‘very capable of introducing social distancing, given the spacious premises’ – read more here.

Newey Ltd has already sunk 85 per cent of its investment in growing seedlings and potting-on plants for the summer 2020 season.

The business normally has a turnover of £40 million per annum and was expecting to employ 170 people before the coronavirus crisis cut its routes to market in March.

It has had to adapt fast and radically change its business model to suit the current circumstances.

The company has been serving customers in Chichester online through its new website – plants2people.com – and Facebook page, Plants2People.

The website went live on April 3 and has already taken over 2,350 orders.

Ten per cent of online sales are donated to NHS charities and a total of £15,000 has already been raised for the NHS.

Alex Newey, director of Newey Ltd, said: “Plants2People.com has been borne out of a desperate situation.

“This initiative has been put together in such a short few days and has been a real team effort, I’ve even been enlisting friends and family to help with deliveries.”

Plants2People.com plans to gradually move from a local delivery service to a nationwide operation over the coming weeks.

Mr Newey said: “We believe in it and hope to keep it as an important part of our business.”

Martyn Thomas, Newey’s business partner, said: “It has been such a delight to see our plants arriving on peoples’ doorsteps.

“Our customers have been really wanting to garden but have struggled with the shops not being open.

“It has been amazing to see the smiles on their faces, knowing that they are also doing their bit to ensure that healthy plants which might have otherwise gone to the recycling bin, get into the ground in time.

“This has been the hardest season ever faced by the British ornamental horticultural industry, but green shoots are starting to appear for us at last.

“We are thrilled to be able to turn our attention again to our traditional wholesale business, whilst continuing to keep a presence in the direct-to-consumer online market.”

Horticulture is the biggest industry in the Chichester area and the second biggest in Arun, worth over £1bn and employing 10,000 people, according to the West Sussex Growers Association.

The coronavirus pandemic has presented ‘extreme challenges’ to the sector – read more here.

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