BOSSES from Haskins Garden Centers are “positive” about the future after the company made profits despite Covid.
Garden centers were closed for eight weeks during the first coronavirus lockdown, just after the Dorset-based company acquired three sites and rebuilt another.
But the company still made a pre-tax profit of Â£ 3.9million in the year ending February 2021, up from Â£ 600,000 the year before.
Julian Winfield, Managing Director of Haskins Garden Centers, said: âWe were extremely concerned at the onset of the pandemic with the lockdown and all the uncertainties. However, Haskins was able to reopen at the end of May 2020 and has traded very well since then, in part thanks to the fact that homes and gardens are playing an increasingly important role in the lives of our customers.
âOur restaurants have been closed for a longer period of time and at this point they have returned to about 85% of pre-pandemic trading, with signs of a slow and continued recovery.
âWe are optimistic about Haskins’ prospects for the next several years as we continue to grow our business, seek to create more jobs and provide great destinations for our customers. ”
Haskins has five garden centers, including one at its Ferndown base. It acquired Forest Lodge, Garden Style and the Birdworld tourist attraction, all located in Farnham, Surrey, in February 2020.
It also redeveloped its Snowhill center in West Sussex, which reopened six weeks before the first nationwide Covid lockdown.
During the first lockdown, Haskins had to send plants for composting, as supermarkets and DIY stores were allowed to sell them while garden centers were closed.
Garden centers remained closed from March to May 2020, but restaurants which constitute a significant part of the activity remained closed until July.
Haskins gross profit increased 22.9% to Â£ 13million and revenue increased 22.4% to Â£ 38.4million, driven by the acquisition of the businesses of Farnham and when Snowhill reopens.
The average workforce amounted to 793 over the year against 616 the previous year.
In his annual report, Mr Haskins wrote: âDuring the year the retail business was closed for almost eight weeks and the restaurants and visitor center were closed for a total of 24 weeks.
âAs a result, considerable management time has been spent preparing the business for the reopening, with all the social distancing measures necessary to protect our staff and customers once the business reopens.
“We also undertook significant cost reviews to mitigate the effect of the reduction in company revenue, and we were also supported by our shareholders who were expecting their dividends for the year.”
The company also used the disruption and termination loan programs.