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Market trader takes on more workers as demand for plants grows in lockdown

PUBLISHED: 17:35 05 May 2020 | UPDATED: 17:35 05 May 2020

Joe Ridoutt. Pic: submitted

Joe Ridoutt. Pic: submitted

A Norwich market stall holder who thought business was finished because of coronavirus has taken on extra staff to cope with demand.

Joe Ridoutt pictured at his market stall. Pic: ArchantJoe Ridoutt pictured at his market stall. Pic: Archant

Joe Ridoutt, who runs Bo-Tanical, closed down a couple of weeks before lockdown he was so sure trade would dwindle. He’d got a website and suddenly saw a massive uptake for plants delivered to people in self-isolation.

After imagining he’d be out of work until lockdown eased, in fact the former estate agent has been working 100 hours a week. In fact he’s had to take on three people to help him get the orders out with plans for another as he predicts a bumper bank holiday weekend.

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One of the baby pots sold by Mr Ridoutt. Pic: Bo-TanicalOne of the baby pots sold by Mr Ridoutt. Pic: Bo-Tanical

Mr Ridoutt, who started the business on the market in 2018, prides himself on selling mainly lower cost plants and lots of them but unlike many firms, will deliver anywhere in the UK for an extra charge.

Mr Ridoutt sells larger outdoor plants such as bonsai trees ideal for balconies or patios but mainly specialises in house plants – which have really caught on as so many people are stuck in self-isolation in houses with no gardens or little outside space. He’s now getting more than 300 orders a week – but the huge growth is giving him a problem. As he doesn’t own a warehouse, he is running out of space to stock items in his converted double garage at home in Spixworth.

As a result, he sometimes has to close orders temporarily to allow him to re-stock.

One of the bonsai trees sold by Mr Ridoutt. Pic: Bo-TanicalOne of the bonsai trees sold by Mr Ridoutt. Pic: Bo-Tanical

“It’s a very nice problem to have,” he said. “Plants bring a lot of happiness, when I deliver locally to people, the reaction when they see a plant left on their doorstep makes them so happy in all this gloom.

“I used to be an estate agent and I’d sometimes get a bit of a frosty reception whereas people are happy to see me now. When I closed the market stall a couple of weeks before lockdown, I thought I’d have to take some time off but I’ve never been busier.”

Mr Ridoutt operates a contactless delivery and said people were ordering all kinds of items but the very small houseplants called ‘baby pots’ in a small tub and with dozens of varieties to choose from were always popular.

Mr Ridoutt is now looking at whether he needs to continue operating a stall on the market going forwards. “I love being on the market, it’s so different from online, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

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