Plant business closes shop - but says ‘don’t worry, we’re still operating’

Antonia and Paul Smith of the Norfolk Olive Tree Company have closed their shop in Norwich's Riversi

Antonia and Paul Smith of the Norfolk Olive Tree Company have closed their shop in Norwich's Riverside Road. Pic: submitted - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk garden centre has closed one of its sites for good after lockdown – but only because its bosses are run off their feet with online orders.

The Norfolk Olive Tree Co has closed its site in Norwich’s Riverside Road after the business grew threefold with web orders during the coronavirus pandemic.

As a result owners Antonia and Paul Smith will be taking a larger venue at their second site on the Colman estate, offering bespoke services to customers.

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Mrs Smith said: “I wouldn’t want people to see that we’ve closed our shop in Norwich and thought the business had gone under – it’s the opposite. I opened for three days when garden centres were told they could reopen and didn’t have a single customer in. Meanwhile I’d had thousands of pounds worth of online orders coming in.”

During the lockdown the pair took it upon themselves to launch a contactless delivery service.

“We’re not like the big companies – we don’t need to have board meetings and decide strategy. We were sat around our kitchen table and we had masks, we had gloves, we had a van and a contactless payment system so we just decided to do it,” she said.

“This lockdown has been really interesting to see how retail has changed. Having a bespoke service where customers can come into the garden centre means they can get in-depth service and we know they’re interested in making a purchase instead of window shopping.”

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The business has gone from strength to strength since opening its first shop in 2015, appearing on Gardeners’ World Live in 2017.

Mrs Smith added: “Demand has gone absolutely mad up north – I’ve got no idea why. I think we’ve been among the luckier businesses in lockdown because have been stuck at home looking at their gardens and wondering what they can do.

“We’ve taken more money online in the past couple of months than we did in the shop for a year – we’re looking forward to having our bespoke services.”

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