Garden Centre Group to target plug business

Online ordering service aims to pick up bedding plant sales from Channel Island mail-order firms.

Garden Centre Group (GCG) has welcomed the closure of the Channel Islands VAT loophole as "good for gardeners" and has introduced a rival scheme to pick up orders that may be lost by Jersey bedding plant mail-order companies.

Companies are turning over £30m a year selling plug plants from the Channel Islands and will now have to pay VAT. GCG is promoting its plug plant range, with customers able to order online and collect from its centres or have home delivery in March and April.

A GCG representative said: "The anomaly was putting independent retailers out of business and costing £140m a year in lost tax receipts. But not only was it wrecking businesses and revenue, it was also eco-unfriendly.

"The extra transport of these plants inevitably has an effect on their health and longevity and adds hundreds of additional plant miles to their lives. Consumers have no idea how far their plants travel."

The practice began in horticulture, where many plants and bulbs grown in the UK were imported in bulk to Jersey and Guernsey for repackaging and then sold back onto the mainland via mail order.

The tax concession allowed mail-order retailers to post goods worth less than £18 from Jersey and Guernsey free of VAT, undercutting UK competitors.

Pre-order service

An online pre-ordering service is now available on Garden Centre Group's (GCG) plug plant range, with customers able to collect from one of GCG's 129 garden centres or have home delivery in March and April.

Click and collect from the local centre is free, while home delivery will incur a standard rate of £7.99. The online service is available until 28 February.

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