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Covid-19 Shutdown Inflicts A Bitter Harvest On Guildford’s Garden Nurseries

Published on: 2 Apr, 2020
Updated on: 3 Apr, 2020

By Hugh Coakley

Guildford’s Sandiacre Nursery is staring into an abyss. “The business consequences are terrifying,” the owner said, as local firms and thousands of others around the country add up the cost of the coronavirus pandemic.

The BBC reported: “Nearly a fifth of all small and medium-sized businesses in the UK are unlikely to get the cash they need to survive the next four weeks.” In Guildford, businesses are calculating how they will pay their bills over the next few months and beyond.

Aerial view of the new Sandiacre horticultural nursery glasshouse opened in 2019. The business is badly affected, its main selling season falling between March and June and peaking in May.

Royden Kemp, owner of Sandiacre Nursery which opened a 12,000 sq metre greenhouse in 2019, told The Guildford Dragon NEWS that the lockdown couldn’t have come at a worse time. “I have incurred all of the expense of the crop but stand to lose all of the income if the shutdown continues through May,” he said.

Support was limited to a government-backed loan, he added. “But the size of that loan would have to be biblical and it is still a loan and I have to pay it back. This will affect profitability for years, if indeed I can afford to pay it back.

“I know government support has, in the main, been very good but I wonder if they have thought it through. Some good businesses will not survive. The size of the problem affecting businesses is so huge that the amount of money being borrowed on our behalf will take a generation to pay back.”

To raise cash for wages, Mr Kemp has set up an online presence, supplying local gardeners rather than their usual core business of wholesale to garden centres. “The response has been overwhelming but however hard we try, the turnover nowhere near matches our normal income.”

It is not just the size of the loans but the timing that is worrying business owners. Franco, owner of the Positano Ristorante in Tunsgate, said he has been told they wouldn’t get any money until the beginning of June at the earliest. “That would be hard for everybody.”

He said he would not be applying for the government loan. “It is an extra cost on cost,” he added.

Positano Restaurant staff are delivering meals by bike and scooter around town within the GU1 to GU3 areas from their Tunsgate base.

Like so many businesses, Positano is trying to make up some of his lost income by delivering their goods, in Positano’s case, meals but it is difficult. “We will be making a loss but I don’t think we will be closing,” he said optimistically.

Franco said his customers have been wonderful: “They have been buying vouchers from us and saying that they will not redeem them until we open again. They are helping us. That has really touched us.”

The coronavirus crisis shutdown has been so rapid and complete for some businesses that casualties are inevitable.

Royden Kemp summed up, saying: “I am ever the optimist but my business is being dealt a blow. Currently, it is difficult to see a favourable outcome.”

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Responses to Covid-19 Shutdown Inflicts A Bitter Harvest On Guildford’s Garden Nurseries

  1. Wendy Johnson Reply

    April 4, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    If local nurseries wanting quick sale and removal of products they should announce themselves on this medium via [please use the Leave a Reply feature below]. There are bound to be takers.

    I should like to buy shrubs and vegetable seeds for my small plot and I’m hindered by the closure of nurseries.

    Let’s get together (two metres apart, of course).

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