GOLOCAL

Springvale Garden Centre is geared for on-line sales, delivery and car park pick-up of their complete range of plants and product.
The centre has been preparing itself for re-entry into a post-lockdown world. Like other places with living stock, maintenance has been regular and necessary throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

"All the admin people are working from home but those who work on the ground have gone in to tidy stuff up a bit," says manager, Gareth Carter. Of course, he says, it's important that they continue social distancing, and the size of the garden centre allows that.

But the month in lockdown has meant more than looking after thousands of plants.
"For me, it's been keeping in touch with staff," says Gareth.
"Just to keep them engaged and make sure they're doing ok in themselves, from a mental health perspective. We've been doing twice-weekly Zoom meetings with the team, which has been really quite cool."
He says staff members have sent personal messages, acknowledging how beneficial the meetings have been.
"Being able to connect with workmates has made all the difference."

But the plants still needed tending.
"MPI gave us the opportunity to apply for essential service status, solely for the purpose of keeping plants alive. We were therefore able to have someone come in and look after stuff.
"We shut a day before the lockdown started and pulled the garden centre apart, from a retail perspective, and put it into a holding pattern stage."
That meant moving a lot of stock into irrigated areas to minimise hands-on care.
"So one person could go in each day and check on the place. There were four of us on a roster to do that and everyone else stayed at home. We were also at the stage of changing over our accounting system so that became slightly tricky for our office people.
"Working on our website has been the big one," says Gareth.
"We were planning to have on-line sales anyway and had the website set up for it."

Advertisement

It was initially intended for sales of small stock items for sending around the country. Lockdown changed that.
"Over the next 18 months we were planning to upload category by category, but now it's ... let's see if we can do that one before morning tea, and that one before lunch, that one by early afternoon ... "
With staff members working from home with images and descriptions, others on site taking photographs for the website, and with the help of David Silvester of Liquid Edge Creative, Springvale Garden Centre is now ready for on-line sales and deliveries of the complete catalogue. With the help of the Government wage subsidy, Gareth says they have kept all their staff employed throughout lockdown.

As well as delivery of product, they are also working on "contactless pick-up".
"We're trying to encourage more of that because delivery will be time consuming, but we'll do both because some people can't leave their homes."
Pick-up will be arranged by allocating time slots and car parks for customers to park at the garden centre, stay in their car and a staff member will load the goods into the boot.

As well as web orders, people will be able to phone the store and they will get a personal shopper who will walk around the store with them on the phone, advising on plants and product and taking orders. Payment can be processed at the same time and arrangements made for delivery or contactless pick-up.
"We will also do bulk bin deliveries by truck," says Gareth. That includes things like bark, topsoil, compost, river stones, shellrock etc. Customers can also pick up such product themselves if they have a suitable vehicle. Loading will be done by a staff member.

Like a lot of enterprises, Springvale Garden Centre has had to adapt to pandemic conditions, finding new ways to conduct business in extraordinary circumstances.