Local plant shops navigating supply shortages during pandemic

May 26 2020, 2:57 pm

Some local plant shops are dealing with a shortage of supply due to the impact COVID-19 had on the industry, and many say they are having to find a new approach to the demand, as people look for ways to use plants in their homes.

Garden centres and nurseries were deemed essential services by the province of British Columbia and have been encouraged to remain open. However, some plant shops are learning to deal with the extra influx of customers and the uncertainty of the industry.

“There is a shortage of plants, but you have to take what you can get at this time. There are so many different factors involved, it’s not just one thing,” said Gayathri Arunthavarajaha, owner of Trendy Bucks, in a phone interview with the Daily Hive.

Arunthavarajaha said she believes a key reason for the shortage is that greenhouses are not able to produce as much as before the pandemic, along with having a shortage of staff.

“Getting any sort of inventory is challenging. Ever since the coronavirus, the suppliers are unsure how things will go and do not want to bring in extras,” Arunthavarajaha said.

“Greenhouses are short-staffed and everyone is overworked. It is so stressful, so demanding physically, mentally emotionally just to keep up.”

Adding to the issue is the fact that the cost to be open as a small business remains high,  Arunthavarajaha said, noting that hiring additional staff and equipment due to social distancing guidelines have added more expenses too.

“If I lose money, a little bit here or there, I don’t mind, because I want to make sure that the customers who count on us have product and make it easier for the greenhouses who provide to us,” Arunthavarajaha said.

As people are spending more time indoors, want to keep themselves busy, and are buying all kinds of plants. House plants, outdoor plants, seeds, fruit trees plants are among the favourites of Arunthavarajaha’s customers with herbs being a top seller.

“There’s a line up everywhere you go and people are trying to find ways to avoid the line up and if they can grow some rosemary or basil at home, why not?” said Arunthavarajaha.

plant supply shortages

Spring plants (Shutterstock)

People are “wanting to just get their hands dirty”

Rebecca Vanderzalm, owner of Arts Nursery, said she agrees that gardening is a great activity that people are now opting to do more of at home.

“A lot of people now are wanting to just get their hands dirty with their kids that are staying at home and also planting more edibles and things for themselves. Edible gardening is on the rise,” Vanderzalm told Daily Hive.

However, Vanderzalm said it may be the speciality stores that are feeling the biggest pinch, especially if they handle mostly events due to annuals being limited.

“If you’re a smaller nursery and you don’t normally pre-book your product or you are heavily on the flower option, the annual and indoor plant market, it is very limited in those areas right now. A lot of florists’ revenue is based on events, with half of their business model or more, and it is something they can’t sell right now,” she said.

Vanderzalm said some of the annuals have been more limited because a few of the growers were not sure what would happen due to COVID-19.

“They decided to cancel some of their cutting and truck orders,” said Vanderzalm. “Or they decided to reduce what they were growing and now there’s a demand for all that product but because of some those earlier cancellations, there is a shortage.”

As well, “some of the annual colour and indoor plants, edible and seeds in general are hard to get,” she added. “We do prep a year in advance, so we’re ok there, but we do struggle to find the variety of depth of certain things.”

Inventory from local growers

Rosemin Jutha, the owner of Queenbee Flower Shop, told Daily Hive that while she is carrying a bit less than she usually does, she always focuses on having the bulk of her inventory coming from local growers.

“I’ve never been through anything like this. It is just a different way of doing business and concentrating more on the flowers. The demand for flowers is up because no one can really go to see their loved ones,” she said.

However, Jutha added the local flower and plant supply is quite strong and it’s important to support local growers at this time.

“It’s really important to be really flexible with how people have to do business. It’s hard right now because I’m working behind closed doors and can’t have it open like before where people could come in and enjoy everything. All of us, all the florists and plant shops are still here to fulfil whatever needs there are.”

Alex MissickAlex Missick

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