The time has come for some businesses to take their first steps towards reopening. Retailers have been severely hit by the pandemic, forced to shut down. However, some of them were still able to improvise and found ways to continue serving a fraction of their customers. This week we focus on the gardening branch that has been surprisingly active all along. People have been mass-purchasing plants, flowers, seeds and gardening tools during and post pandemic time, which makes us wonder what triggered this sudden bounding with nature. To go through all the details about this phenomenon and the comeback of the business we spoke with Tony Palma, owner of Homeland Toronto’s Garden Centre.
Milénio Stadium: It’s finally reopening time. What are the first impressions of being back? Has it been busy? Do you feel like customers are making the business flow again or are they hesitant?
Tony Palma: All garden centres are extremely busy now. Everyone is stuck at home and more people are taking up vegetable gardening than I have ever seen before. There are now widespread shortages for many common varieties of plants.
MS: Can you tell us about what quarantine time was like for your garden centre? What did you do to keep the business going and how did you manage to take care of the plants and flowers that need daily attention?
TP: We were always in operation and bulk garden soil orders were being conducted regularly. We were concerned about obtaining plant supplies and warning customers to start from seed in case greenhouses reduced production (which has happened).
MS: Looking forward, how long do you think it will take to recover from the pandemic crisis? How much did the crisis affect this sector?
TP: If anything, business is about the same. Covid-19 comes up in every interaction, it is tiring. The way people interact with one another is strange. Many people do not appear to have significantly changed their behaviour.
MS: It has been on the news: we have seen an increasing demand for plants during the pandemic. How can we explain this? Why are people suddenly more interested in having a piece of nature surrounding them? May it be correlated to people being in isolation?
TP: It may be boredom, people interested in food security or perhaps people just wanting an activity they can do at home with their families.
MS: Being back in the business, what are people mostly looking for? Is it decorative plants and flowers, seeds to grow or other? Why?
TP: For us, everyone wants fruit and vegetable seedlings.
MS: What would you recommend for this season, for people that are beginners, starting to develop an interest in plants or gardening?
TP: I would recommend tomatoes, lettuce, beans and herbs, they are easy to grow.
MS: Is there any other information you think it’s relevant to share during this time?
TP: To get plants you may have to make several trips to several garden centres to try and get what you want. Do not be too choosy as there is very limited supply. In spite of the plant shortages there are many things that you can plant from seed such as beans and lettuce. It is too late to seed tomatoes or peppers.