Gnome limits: UK garden centres run out after Suez blockage

Rhi Storer
·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Paul Marriott/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Paul Marriott/Rex/Shutterstock

Garden gnomes and other outdoor furniture are running out due to supply chain issues and the popularity of garden centres in the UK during lockdown.

Raw materials have become increasingly difficult to come by and the recent blockage of the Suez canal has also contributed to the national shortage of gnomes.

Ian Byrne, assistant manager of Highfield Garden World in Whitminster, Gloucestershire, said there had been a “massive upswing” in the sales of garden gnomes. “We haven’t seen a gnome in six months now, unfortunately,” he said.

Byrne said garden centres had experienced a “boom” and that was causing issues with the availability of many popular items.

He said: “There aren’t any [gnomes]. There’s definitely a shortage. It’s a combined thing with garden centres being so busy. I looked at some figures based on March which said garden centres were 97% busier than they were in 2019.

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“Every day has been like a bank holiday. That’s good but it’s definitely causing some issues because it’s not just English garden centres that are booming, it’s all across Europe, so it’s causing issues with supply,” he said.

Like many garden centres, Byrne has been contacting suppliers across Europe and China to help ship garden gnomes to the UK.

He said: “Raw materials are becoming a bit of an issue and unfortunately gnomes are a victim of that shortage … Gnomes of any type – plastic, stone or concrete – are in short supply. They’ve been very popular over the last couple of seasons, we’ve seen a massive upswing in the sales of gnomes and definitely a different clientele wanting gnomes too.”

The Garden Centre Association’s chief executive, Iain Wylie, added: “Most garden centres haven’t noticed – although they will. We’re facing a perfect storm of lockdown, everyone being stuck at home, and one thing people can do is their gardening.”

Higher demand and confidence in supply chains have also caused issues. Plants, according to Wylie, have to be grown for a “just-in-time” market. “We are not immune to a ship getting stuck in a canal, freight cost issues due to Brexit, or the pandemic,” he said.

In the final three months of 2020, sales in DIY stores were up by 35% while garden centre sales were up by 8.5%, according to the Office for National Statistics.