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Have you seen the Christmas displays at these garden centres yet?

PUBLISHED: 08:00 31 October 2020

Thetford Garden Centre opened their Christmas department a week early. Picture: SOPHIE STOGDON

Thetford Garden Centre opened their Christmas department a week early. Picture: SOPHIE STOGDON

SOPHIE STOGDON

Christmas has come early to garden centres across Norfolk and Suffolk after they started planning for the festive season back in January.

Inside the Christmas department at Thetford Garden Centre. Picture: SOPHIE STOGDONInside the Christmas department at Thetford Garden Centre. Picture: SOPHIE STOGDON

From trees to baubles – garden centres have all the supplies needed for the perfect December 25.

This period is crucial for the viability of many of our businesses - especially this year when they were forced to close for weeks on end.

At Thetford Garden Centre the team has been planning for Christmas since the start of 2020 – organising buying trips to Germany to purchase stock and planning displays from the end of summer.

And this year the team have moved the display into a more prominent position on site as well as launching a week earlier than normal.

The North Pole display inside Thetford Garden Centre. Picture: SOPHIE STOGDONThe North Pole display inside Thetford Garden Centre. Picture: SOPHIE STOGDON

General manager Julian Chittock said: “After spring Christmas is our second busiest period. We always go really big on Christmas because we love doing it and so do our customers. We stock everything you could want for a proper homemade Christmas.”

The planning has paid off with the business seeing a 30% increase in early festive sales compared to last year.

Mr Chittock said: “This was a year for change because of the pandemic. Usually the Christmas department is in a separate part of the site but this year we’ve bought it into the main building.

“We’ve talked about it for a few years but the decision was made because it’s easier to social distance. We also opened earlier because we know how much people love to look around and so far we have seen demand increasing because of it.”

Inside Christmas at Thetford Garden Centre. Picture: SOPHIE STOGDONInside Christmas at Thetford Garden Centre. Picture: SOPHIE STOGDON

He said: “We are still a family run business and keep trying to do better every year – as well as keeping our customers safe.”

It is this commitment passed from generation to generation of local business owner which led this paper to launch its Shop Local campaign.

Shop Local is a use-it-or-lose-it plea to our readers urging them to keep their money in the local economy by shopping with businesses which have been strangled by the pandemic.

Another business that would welcome your support this Christmas is Lound Plant Centre in Lowestoft, where husband-and-wife team Paul Watling and Helen Rawlins took the helm last year.

Family run Thetford Garden Centre prides themselves on going big for Christmas. Picture: Sohpie StogdonFamily run Thetford Garden Centre prides themselves on going big for Christmas. Picture: Sohpie Stogdon

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The pair had big plans for Christmas and wanted to launch new product lines, however had their hopes quashed by the pandemic.

Mr Watling said: “We did want to do more this year and look at getting some decorations in for example. But given the fact planning and buying happens between January and March the pandemic rather slowed that down and we had to cancel our orders.”

Not to be deterred the business will still be selling Christmas trees as well as hand-made wreaths and hampers.

Julian Chittock. Picture: SOPHIE STOGDONJulian Chittock. Picture: SOPHIE STOGDON

“The thing with garden centres is that your main cashflow periods are from March to about June with spring planting and then some smaller peaks in summer and at the start of winter for bedding plants. Christmas is what might see you through until January, it is a very, very important trading period,” he said.

The business has launched an online store in preparation for further national or local lockdowns.

“We’ve done what we can to put ourselves in a strong position. So we launched a website which means that even if we are locked down people can still pick up some nice bits and come and collect them safely,” he said.

MORE: Shop local - How wedding caterers reinvented their business in lockdown to open new shop

“We’ve also looked at our stock and how we can reduce waste. We don’t want to stock loads of Christmas brandy which may not sell and so could end up going to waste. Instead we’ve got items for our hampers – whether they’re pre-made or build it yourself – that we can continue to sell after December,” he said.

The Woodbridge-based garden centre chain Notcutts recently launched its Christmas range and a spokeswoman said it had already been popular.

She said: “Our Christmas ranges were launched last week and they have proved to be popular with our customers already.

“We will be managing the number of customers into the garden centre and in the popular Christmas display areas at busy times. Again we would encourage customers not to leave their Christmas shopping until December and to start now to avoid a pre-Christmas rush.

“For those who would prefer to avoid our busiest times, weekday shopping and earlier in the morning is best.”

MORE: Shop Local: ‘We need to Shop Local and bootstrap our own economy’


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