Well.... (deeply inhaling)... what a strange time we are all in, as we have a moment to catch our breath and reflect and look back on the trials and tribulations of the last 2 months, we wanted to share the fun and games we have had during, and thanks to Covid-19. On the one hand we feel really, really blessed that we have been one of the lucky ones to continue working throughout the lockdown period but it has certainly thrown up some hurdles for us to jump over.
It all starts back in March, Covid-19 was in the news and just starting to be a problem here. Our main office member of staff had been away on holiday and on her return she had to self isolate as a precaution.
We then found out that 40,000 catalogues that were meant to be sent to prospective customers were still with the mailing house due to a HUGE mix up their end and hadn't been posted - (How do you forget to post 40,000 envelopes??) To date they still haven't been sent due to the incompetence of the mailing firm and for which we now face a legal battle over, despite the loss of potential customers, the costs incurred in producing the catalogues we also had a greenhouse full of plants and no sales!
So we end March short staffed and in lockdown. This in itself was no real hardship for David & I as we live and work on site so were able to keep busy in the greenhouse (there are always jobs to be done) but our nursery and office staff do not and suddenly nowhere is open, only online mail order companies and the internet went wild!
We took a record number of orders at Easter as everyone was desperate to get plants, suddenly our pre-planned numbers of plants that we had grown for our anticipated mailing wasn't nearly enough, we had to stop answering the phone as we couldn't pack orders up with the constant interruption and ended up working all hours to try and keep up with demand and with just 4 of us on site and over 2,000 orders to deal with it caused a massive back-log!!
So suddenly we have over 2,000 orders to deal with and more coming in every week, most companies were not working or those that are, are having delivery issues as Royal Mail battles the sudden onslaught of mail being sent around the country and also being short of staff due to the pandemic. And suddenly we run out of boxes! If that is not bad enough we then run out of the inners we use to securely pack the plants for their journey and then due to the sudden demand for plants we run out of our much needed 16 page Grow Guide that we include with all orders, and if all that is not enough we had bank holidays to contend with where we couldn't send any plants out, this caused the back-log to grow to over 6 weeks delay - we've never been that far behind!!
During all this madness we had to find time to propagate for the sudden influx of plants needed, then April & May decided to be hot ones with temperatures reaching over 40C in the greenhouse - this made working in there somewhat sticky! and watering became an endless task.
But posted through our letter box we did get the odd gift to show all our hard work was appreciated!!
But if that is not enough this year is our BIG celebratory year and we were going to be exhibiting at Chelsea, our first time back in 15 years due to family commitments. We had grown plants for the show and planned to unveil our brand new variety Allwoods One Ten as well as launch our new book on the history of Allwoods, the planning, preparation all for nothing, hotels had to be cancelled and all the hard work of growing the plants for the show wasted.
We also wholesale a select range of Succulents into Covent Garden Market in London and now have several benches full of plants with no outlet and had booked several plant fairs - with nowhere to sell these larger plants, packing them can be problematic and posting them is costly so sending them by post is not really an option. Difficult decisions have to be made - keeping them costs us money, throwing them away also costs us money as we have spent the last 6 months growing them, but with no immediate end in site we have to weigh up the pros and cons of the crop - heartbreaking doesn't even cut it in this instance!
Another hardship we have had to face is our cut flowers have had to be suspended as we sold out off fresh cut flower due to the sudden demand and with staff shortage and Royal Mail having delivery issues we made the difficult decision to close that side of the business down - the last time Allwoods were unable to send flowers was in the Second World War!! As yet we have no set date as to when we can re-open this service again and it is another nail in the coffin thanks to Covid-19
But it is not all doom and gloom, we have been blessed to still be able to work, sell plants and keep going, we have brought joy, happiness and a sense of well being to people quarantined or shielding at home and that is the best feeling EVER! alongside the new customers who have now found us and our amazing range of plants, there is always good in every situation, sometimes it doesn't feel like it at the time but on reflection it has been, so far, a very interesting time and I wonder what the next 6 months will bring. For me I hope to put my feet up a little after working non-stop for the last 3 months.... certainly looks like the dog has had the same idea.
Thanks for reading, supporting our small business and helping us keep going.