The group managing director of leading commercial nursery Johnsons of Whixley has hailed the hard work and resilience of his staff as the business recorded ‘remarkable’ sales figures despite the pandemic, extreme weather and continuing uncertainty around Brexit.

Graham Richardson said everyone within the firm had been absolutely determined to maintain operations despite the unprecedented challenges of 2020.

As Johnsons approaches its centenary in 2021, Mr Richardson said sales of £13.2m up to the year end on September 30th had been the second highest in the company’s history. A total of 5.3 million plants had been sold, with almost 500 new customers on the books and 11,000 UK deliveries made.

An unprecedented slowdown when lockdown began in March, coupled with daily changes in regulations, had brought a remarkable response from the workforce, who had not only adapted to new ways of working overnight but had risen to the challenge of redistributing plants that would otherwise have gone to waste. While some were given out in the community, new stock offers were created and previously untapped markets identified.

He said the challenges of 2020 had been both unique and significant but added: “So is our resolve and core strength. We have the utmost respect for our remarkable workforce, customers and suppliers and remain eternally grateful for their loyalty, hard work and support.

“None of us knows what the coming months will bring but individually and collectively, we can work together to limit the impact and maximise opportunities. This is what we did in the year gone and this is what we will do in the year coming.

“Our reaction and determination to follow the rules, coupled with a regimented sanitation regime and a naturally well-ventilated working environment, have so far kept us mostly safe. Our resolve to ensure job security for all by continuing to ship and make much-needed new plants.

“The end result in our season 2019-20 is, in my opinion, more remarkable than the previous year, that witnessed recording-breaking sales of over £14m. Our sales of over £13.2m are our second highest ever. Profitability and cash generation have followed and this creates a great buffer for the remaining challenges of the pandemic and Brexit that lie ahead.”

Mr Richardson said that Brexit and the ongoing pandemic would continue to create issues and were no less significant than the battles they had fought.

“We now face an exit from the European Union which offers little but uncertainty, confusion and increased cost,” he added. “There is a misconception that a deal will remove any potential limitations, and we will be able freely trade with our EU suppliers in an unchanged manner. This is not the case – new restrictions and regulations will limit what we can buy, will increase supply timescales significantly and will add between five and 10% to the cost of our plants, which might go on to have a limiting effect on what we sell.”