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In pictures: Customers flock to Norfolk and Waveney’s reopened garden centres

PUBLISHED: 14:49 14 May 2020 | UPDATED: 09:50 15 May 2020

A customer wearing a face mask at the Thetford Garden Centre during the Coronavirus lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A customer wearing a face mask at the Thetford Garden Centre during the Coronavirus lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Customers desperate for a return to normal life have been flocking to garden centres as they reopened for the first time since lockdown.

Amanda Middlebrook, retail assistant, wearing a face mask and a shield on the tills, with Clinton Wright in a shield as he supervises the queue at Thetford Garden Centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAmanda Middlebrook, retail assistant, wearing a face mask and a shield on the tills, with Clinton Wright in a shield as he supervises the queue at Thetford Garden Centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

From Wednesday (May 13), people were permitted to visit centres after the government eased restrictions as part of its ‘roadmap’ for recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

All garden centres initially closed on March 23 when a widespread lockdown was first announced by Boris Johnson.

Notcutts in Norwich has reopened after the government eased coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Picture : BRITTANY WOODMANNotcutts in Norwich has reopened after the government eased coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Picture : BRITTANY WOODMAN

Businesses in the horticultural industry are estimated to have lost millions of pounds of income over the past seven weeks, with green-fingered buyers unable to visit during the peak season.

Since news of their ability to reopen was confirmed, centres across Norfolk and Waveney have been implementing a host of social distancing measures including one-way aisles and a limit on customers.

Owner of Wymondham Garden Centre, Gary Groucott, wearing a bandana as a face mask now they are open to the public during the Coronavirus lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYOwner of Wymondham Garden Centre, Gary Groucott, wearing a bandana as a face mask now they are open to the public during the Coronavirus lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Gary Groucott, who owns Wymondham Garden Centre alongside his wife, Brenda, said its own system had so far proved effective following a trial run earlier this week.

“Staff were apprehensive at first and all a little bit worried, but confidence has really grown,” said Mr Groucott.

A face-masked statue at the Wymondham Garden Centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYA face-masked statue at the Wymondham Garden Centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“One of the reasons there were nerves is because we are being spoken about like a destination rather than a shopping experience. Coming here is not a social event and I think some people may treat it that way.

“A lot of the customers have been quite old which has surprised me given they are more vulnerable. People are clearly desperate to get out and do something.

Notcutts in Norwich has reopened after the government eased coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Picture : BRITTANY WOODMANNotcutts in Norwich has reopened after the government eased coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Picture : BRITTANY WOODMAN

“Some customers haven’t bothered at all with masks and gloves, where as others wear the lot. It shows how differently people feel about the situation.”

MORE: Which Norfolk and Waveney garden centres are reopening?

Naomi Jackson, customer service supervisor, and Chris Gooderson, internal gardening manager, in face masks as they work at the Thetford Garden Centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYNaomi Jackson, customer service supervisor, and Chris Gooderson, internal gardening manager, in face masks as they work at the Thetford Garden Centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Julian Chittock, general manager at Thetford Garden Centre, said no stone had been left unturned as it finally welcomed back customers.

The centre has a queuing system in its car park and all visitors are given a trolley so the number of people in store can be monitored.

General manager Julian Chittock wears a face mask at Thetford Garden Centre after coronavirus measures were eased and it reopened. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYGeneral manager Julian Chittock wears a face mask at Thetford Garden Centre after coronavirus measures were eased and it reopened. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“We put a lot of work into making sure everything was ready for reopening and our team has been fantastic,” added Mr Chittock.

“We had an induction day on Tuesday and staff were obviously very nervous, but within an hour of opening on Wednesday everyone was pretty comfortable.

Notcutts in Norwich has reopened after the government eased coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Picture : BRITTANY WOODMANNotcutts in Norwich has reopened after the government eased coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Picture : BRITTANY WOODMAN

“Our customer base is really loyal so it is great to have them back.”

Notcutts, on the A140 Daniels Road, Norwich, has welcomed back masses of keen customers, with long queues often stretching dozens of metres outside the store.

Mark Le-Vine, stock control supervisor, wears a face mask at Thetford Garden Centre after it reopened. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYMark Le-Vine, stock control supervisor, wears a face mask at Thetford Garden Centre after it reopened. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

More regular cleaning is taking place, screens have been installed at the tills and staff are wearing masks and visors to protect themselves from the spread of the virus.

General manager Richard Greenacre said reopening had gone far more smoothly than he and his team of 19 staff imagined.

Notcutts in Norwich has reopened after the government eased coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Picture : BRITTANY WOODMANNotcutts in Norwich has reopened after the government eased coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Picture : BRITTANY WOODMAN

“It has been great so far - it’s really nice to be back,” said Mr Greenacre. “It has actually been a really pleasant place to be, and I think that’s going to carry on going forward.

“Customers have been very understanding of the queuing system and the social distancing, some of which we had in place before the lockdown even began. I’d say more than half of our customers have been wearing PPE of their own as well.

Jonathan Copelin, plant area supervisor, wears a face mask at the Thetford Garden Centre now they are open to the public during the Coronavirus lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYJonathan Copelin, plant area supervisor, wears a face mask at the Thetford Garden Centre now they are open to the public during the Coronavirus lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“In a way the supermarkets have done us a big favour because people have got used to queuing and being told exactly what to do.”

• For the latest COVID-19 news, visit the Norfolk Coronavirus Updates Facebook page.

Notcutts in Norwich has reopened after the government eased coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Picture : BRITTANY WOODMANNotcutts in Norwich has reopened after the government eased coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Picture : BRITTANY WOODMAN

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