SME and Business

Clydesdale Bank supports garden business which hopes for late bloom

A family-owned garden centre and wholesale nursery business has received a much-needed financial lifeline with a loan from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) through Clydesdale Bank after 99% of its sales income collapsed under the coronavirus lockdown.

Cobbins Nursery and Highdown Garden Centre, based near Worthing in West Sussex, has secured funding to provide cashflow to the business and to ensure they can replant to fulfil orders when the business reopens.

The company saw both its wholesale and retail markets disappear when the lockdown came into force and garden centres closed. The provision of plants and flowers to garden centres accounts for 99% of the nursery’s business.

When the lockdown was introduced on 23 March, the business had thousands of plants in stock with nowhere to go. To reduce loss, the team established a new online shop, delivering within an eight mile radius. Online sales have exceeded expectations and provided essential cash flow.

However, the impact of lockdown has been devastating for the business as it geared up for peak period, which represents half a million plants and around 50% of annual sales. Ninety per cent of the team have had to be furloughed.

George Lisher, third generation owner of the business, said:

“It is usually a thriving time for the businesses, with the nursery supplying plants to retailers and customers countrywide. This year has been very different. Everything ground to a halt, and almost 100% of the usual influx of business and committed orders disappeared overnight.

“We had just managed Mother’s Day before the lockdown, but that was a non-event as families were being told to stay at home. Then Easter was upon us and everyone was home-bound and there was no market for our plants. There is no good time for this turn of events, but this truly could not have been at a worse point in the calendar year for us, as it was peak season.”

George was relieved when B&Q opened some stores, resulting in a major order to keep things afloat. Based on this positive news, the team are keeping the plants at their best in the hope this demand continues to increase in the coming weeks.

On the financial side, George has turned to Justin Ellis, his relationship manager at Clydesdale Bank, which is owned by Virgin Money UK PLC, who he says has been an invaluable source of support.

George said:

“Last year, we took the opportunity to vertically integrate and bought Highdown Garden Centre, which adjoins Cobbins Nursery. The chance to combine a wholesale and retail enterprise made perfect sense. The Bank assisted the acquisition by providing the required debt finance. Since the crisis, Justin has been in touch weekly to help find solutions and to keep the business operational.”

Justin Ellis, relationship manager at Clydesdale Bank said:

“I am pleased we have been able to quickly offer flexible and appropriate emergency financial solutions. The CBILS loan will support the cash flow of the business as it begins to start planting again. This will ensure that, when outlets reopen at some point in the future, there will once again be seasonal plants available.”