With gardens centres closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, nurseries across the county have been left with nowhere to sell their plants.
The pandemic also resulted in Matt Skinner, from Bracklesham Bay near Chichester, who has many years of experience in the industry, losing his job as Head of Sales in the horticulture sector.
Matt and his fiancee Camilla, with whom he has three children all under the age of four, were wondering how they were going to pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads when they came up with the idea of using Matt’s contacts to sell plants directly to the customer.
He said: “A lot of my friends and colleagues are in the same place, looking at millions of pounds worth of stock that’s destined for the bin.”
While the Horticultural Trade Association has estimated that the crisis will cost the industry £250million, Matt said: “I think it will be potentially worse than that.
“It’s really a very difficult time for the horticulture industry.”
And it is not just a short-term problem, according to Matt.
“If these businesses disappear this year, how will people buy plants for the foreseeable future?” he said.
“It’s going to cause a real knock-on effect for many years.”
The couple set up Hope Plants with the aim of doing a few local deliveries with a van – but thanks to a ‘phenomenal’ response on social media, they have seen orders go ‘through the roof’.
Matt is now coordinating eight delivery vehicles a day to keep up with demand.
“It’s a perfect storm really in that the weather is fantastic and people are stuck at home, looking at their gardens,” he said.
Hope Plants, which is partnered predominantly with one Chichester nursery, offers four colour collections of plants in baskets or containers, as well as a range of grow-your-own vegetables which have been ‘very popular’, particularly with families.
“A lot of people said they’ve got kids at home and are trying to find creative ways to educate them,” Matt said.
Many grateful customers have welcomed having something to keep them focused, he said, adding: “It’s heartwrenching, so many people are housebound and lonely.
“For people’s health and wellbeing, plants make such a difference.”
Search @HopePlantsUK on Facebook to find out more.
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