THE garden centre group Haskins has said it will be a “long time” before it fully recovers from the Covid crisis after a year of expansion was followed by the coronavirus lockdown.

Accounts just published for the financial year which ended in February 2020 show the business – which has a large centre at West End – was prospering and developing, according to bosses.

It had just reopened its Snowhill Garden Centre in West Sussex after a major redevelopment and had bought the Surrey tourist attraction Birdworld, along with the neighbouring Forest Lodge Garden Centre and Garden Style.

A report by chief executive Julian Winfield said: “Haskins has continued to prosper and further develop year-round business through the widening of its product range and the continued development of its catering offering despite a challenging economic and retail environment during the year.”

He said the Snowhill redevelopment would “significantly enhance Haskins’ profitability in coming years”.

Turnover at the Dorset-headquartered company was down by three per cent to £31.4million owing due to the Snowhill work, which led to the business to operate from a smaller, temporary centre. On a like-for-like basis, sales rose 4.7 per cent across its sites at West End, Ferndown in Dorset, Snowhill and Roundstone in West Sussex.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) fell from £4.8m to £2.7m and pre-tax profits fell from £3m to £575,000. The company refinanced its debts and agreed a £28m loan facility with HSBC.

The Covid crisis, which began at the start of the new financial year, closed garden centres from March 23 until May 13 under the government lockdown, with its restaurants shut until July 7.

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A directors’ report said: “The effect on trading during the prime spring trading period for garden centres has been very significant. Trading since reopening has, however, been strong and has begun to recover some of the lost trade during lockdown.

“The full impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our business remains uncertain and as a result is unquantifiable at this stage.”

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Mr Winfield said in a statement: “The temporary closure of our centres during the government-enforced lockdown has financially impacted the business, with current restrictions continuing to affect our usual trade levels. We were pleased to be one of the first retail sectors to be able to open and have invested significant figures to make our centres Covid-secure for our customers and staff.

“There remain challenges in parts of our business, particularly the restaurants which continue to operate with capacity restrictions, reducing their ability to function to the same level as prior to the pandemic. In such an unknown situation, we can see it is going to be a long time before we fully recover.

“However, we are optimistic for the future, but mindful of the evolving situation and ever-changing restrictions which are impacting businesses across the UK. Throughout this time, we are thankful for the support of our customers and colleagues who work hard to ensure our centres remain Covid-secure. We continue to receive positive feedback from people who find our centres a safe and enjoyable experience.”

Haskins began as a nursery business in 1882. Chairman Warren Haskins, who took over the nursery in 1969, opened a small garden centre shop at Tricketts Cross and it moved to the current Longham site in 1994.


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