The Horticultural Trades Association is calling on Government to reconsider trading restrictions for garden centres.
Under the current Sunday Trading Act 1994, large shops over 280 sq m/3,000 sq ft are restricted to opening for only six continuous hours between 10am to 6pm and must close on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day.
The Sunday Trading Act is a significant hand-brake on the horticulture and garden industry as garden centres, due to their necessity for a large land area, are restricted by these measures which is costing the industry an estimated £75 million in lost sales per year and is putting a significant regulatory and economic burden on garden centres.
In addition to impacts on sales, revenue and growth, restrictions on Sunday Trading challenge the important roles garden centres play as leisure destinations for families and others within their communities, supporting the 20 million people throughout the UK who enjoy gardening. Gardening has been proven to help us improve our mental and physical health, gets us outside and helps us connect with other people in our community. Garden centres play a key role in facilitating us to do so and give us the opportunity to explore the vast variety of plants and flowers Mother Nature has to offer.
The HTA and the industry do not seek to undermine the arguments for keeping Sunday special and to protect workers from disruption to their family life. Rather, the HTA is aiming to contribute to stress-free family and social life by making it possible for them to enjoy garden centres for longer, particularly during planting season. As a consequence, full closure on Easter Sunday means that garden centres lose a whole trading day during peak planting season whilst families are seeking to spend time together preparing their garden for the year ahead.
Moreover, the Sunday Trading Act only applies to England and Wales, thus Scottish garden centres can open without these restrictions. The Scottish example shows that deregulated Sunday trading hours do not disrupt family life or undermine Sunday as special, and can work and benefit garden centres and their customers.
The HTA is engaging with Government to find a solution that will strengthen garden centres as social hubs as well as boost their growth and economic contribution to the UK economy.