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The Landscaping Industry’s Response to the Coronavirus

The coronavirus outbreak is sending ripples round the world affecting hundreds of millions of people. Spreading far beyond its origin in China, we are currently waking up to a world of uncertainty.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), an epidemic, which quickly became a global pandemic, emerged from a densely populated manufacturing and transport hub in central China and has since spread worldwide.

In contrast to the Western Africa Ebola emergency in 2013 – more deadly, but less contagious, COVID-19 presents larger economies with dilemmas. Corporate titans have warned that the virus is set to hurt profits as the authorities battle daily to contain the spread of the outbreak.

With millions of workers now in quarantine, it is expected the businesses and the economy are going to take a massive hit. Although countries with well-honed crisis risk management arrangements are faring better at slowing the spread, they aren’t immune to the economic strain they may experience post pandemic.

Aside from the economic stresses as a result of the deadly virus, mass quarantines and those under lockdown are more likely to experience mental health problems, such as stress, anxiety, and a sense of isolation and loss of control over their lives.

With events around the world being cancelled, and self-isolation becoming more and more feared, Pro Landscaper was keen to find out how this pandemic has affected the horticulture trade? Specifically those affected by the RHS show cancellations.

On Tuesday March 17, the RHS cancelled shows and garden events with immediate effect. RHS Chelsea Flower Show is one of the, if not the most, prestigious event in the landscaping calendar. Nurseries, growers, landscapers, designers and maintenance teams plan their gardens months in advance – with some companies turning down business to focus solely on their Chelsea show gardens. We spoke to those affected about how these cancellations will affect business…

Mark Gregory – Landform Consultants

“It came as a surprise for us to hear. We were planning for three builds. We were in our final stages and the crews were all allocated. Fortunately for us, we have multiple jobs running which can easily absorb the crews which should have been at Chelsea.

I’m sure all three of our exhibits are just on hols and will go forward again next year, so this year hasn’t been a complete waste of money.

The financial fallout from this pandemic will be wide-spread and painful. Recovery will take months, if not years, and that’s if they’re lucky.

I am sure there will be a lot of casualties because of this. The winter albeit mild, has also been very wet. There will be many companies not financially healthy going forward, it leaves a massive hole for some of the smaller companies who would have turned jobs away to fully focus on Chelsea.

 

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After the uncertainty and stagnation over Brexit, we saw an amazing buoyancy in the market and the industry felt vibrant and very optimistic for the future, but that has all come to a shuddering stop.

This year was going to be my 100th garden and 31st consecutive year, that’s gone off like a damp firework. I speak for many, one word – gutted.

As for May? It is going to feel odd not being at my second home, but we are working on a large project at RHS Garden Wisley, so I will get my RHS and garden fix there!”

James Booth – Outdoordesign

“The cancellations have been confirmed today, but we were expecting it and had been predicting it since last week, so whilst it is really disappointing, it isn’t a massive shock.

It’s bitterly disappointing because we were due to be working on a total of seven projects this year, a record for us, and some of the work was going to be stunning. We were really looking forward to playing our part.

We are at various degrees of development with each project, some have got as far as cutting material, some just the production of samples, and others at advanced design stages.

I know this is a decision that would not have been made lightly and would not have been made if there was any alternative. So we have to be pragmatic, the health and welfare of everyone involved must come first.

The landscape industry is unlike any other, one we should all be extremely proud of, and I have no doubt everyone will pull together to support each other through what are going to be extremely challenging times ahead.”

Ross Conquest – Conquest Spaces 

“The shows for us each year have become a big part of our business, now covering a large chunk of yearly turnover. Chelsea in particular, is very high value in terms of contracts, so it will be very difficult to bring back the same profit for this period on normal projects.

Procedures are already being put into place this week to bring projects forward. One of our teams has now come out of the workshop as prefabricated items need to be stored now or sold.

We currently have all our plant stock that needs to be sold and the trees will go back to the growers to be banked for next year, if we’re lucky.

Overall it’s a very sobering mood at the moment and I advise everyone to stick together and work out a sensible plan moving forward to keep our teams on site.

With so many industries being affected its difficult to know how many more clients will be dropping out of proposed works.

With the pubs and schools set to close this week, the knock on effect will be huge. It’s business as usual for us at the moment, let’s just hope it stays that way”.

Ed Burnham – Burnham Landscaping 

“Burnham Landscaping have two gardens planned at this years RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival – something we look forward to each year.

Whilst the latest news is that RHS Chelsea Flower Show is cancelled, and Hampton Court Garden Festival still due to go ahead, I feel the word from the government is a little more black than we may be lead to believe.

In my opinions, I don’t see any large gatherings taking place before September. I would urge the RHS to consider a Northern and Southern show in September. I believe it would give the horticulture industry a much needed ray of sunshine.

Small businesses will be hit hard, many who sell their goods at the shows, for them an opportunity to get out in front of the buying public is crucial.

For us, we see the shows as an opportunity to meet designers, enjoy friendships and enjoy building amongst the best in the business. If we weren’t to build our 17th and 18th show gardens this year, we would carry on with the many domestic projects that are in the diary.

Although we have seen a rise in demand for quality landscape constructors, the coronavirus is going to have a detrimental effect on many peoples incomes, which has a knock on affect.

Shows have a huge influence on the public who want to have work on their gardens at home. I feel that if there are no shows at all this year, we many find ourselves in chartered territory heading into 2021.”

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