Redundancies rise as more garden centres go under

Garden centres have been warned to face making staff redundant this winter.

Several centres and concessions have laid off staff this month and the HTA's employment advice line is receiving record numbers of calls from employers.

The Pavilion Garden Centre in Wolverhampton, which employs six staff, is shutting this month with bosses blaming bad weather, customers shopping online and the gloomy economy.

Chris Wright, who has run the centre for the past 13 years, said:

"Our wages, business rates, National Insurance costs and just about every other overhead you can think of has increased in recent years while our trade has steadily got worse.

"It's very sad for all the staff and for me personally but we are having to admit defeat.

"I don't think the public quite realises the wave of change upon them. We are just one of the first of the businesses to be affected by this."

Country Homes & Gardens (CHG) has sold its garden centre at Stonehouse, near Stroud, to the neighbouring school, Wycliffe College, which will close the centre and rebuild it as a prep school extension.

CHG bought the centre from Wyevale in 2006.

Marketing director Lorrie Robertson said: "There have been a number of garden centres open in the area. It was a situation whereby we simply couldn't compete."
Robertson said staff may be moved to other centres.

Meanwhile, craft retailer Craft Central, which has concessions at 40 garden centres including Wyevale and Klondyke, has applied to place the company into administration. Hundreds of jobs are at risk. The administrator is Leonard Curtis at Bury, Lancashire.

HTA business development director Tim Briercliffe offered a word of caution to garden centres looking to make cuts:

"I think a lot of garden centres will be looking at their costs and addressing head counts. That will be a part of garden centres' review of costs. They will see redundancies as costs are trimmed for the first time in years.

"But I'd warn that what makes garden centres special is the service levels on the shop floor. Garden centres should be careful they don't compromise what makes them special.

"Redundancies are not an easy option and there can be costs of it goes wrong. There's heaps of legislation around it as well. Penny Worner's employment advice line is becoming one of our busiest. I can't say who is calling but there are lots of them."

The Centre for Economics & Business Research has warned 135,000 retail workers will lose their jobs in 2009. Woolworths had made 30,000 redundant, while retailers such as M&S are also set to lay off 1,230 staff.

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