Nursery firm Johnsons invests six figures to protect against Brexit staff shortages

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North Yorkshire-based Johnsons of Whixley grew its sales 20 per cent to £8m between October 2018 and March 2019, an increase of £1.37m.

The commercial nursery business said it was its most successful half year of trading since the company was established almost 100 years ago.

Managing Director Graham Richardson said February in particular had seen a record number of orders, with both sales and top-up orders proving extremely robust.

However he added the impact of Brexit was weighing heavily on its future plans and that it was investing hundreds of thousands of pounds to mitigate against potential staffing shortages.

The firm, which has sites in Whixley, Cattal and Roecliffe, has invested £70,000 in a new mechanical line capable of processing up to 7,000 plants a day while halving the number of workers required to perform the task manually, something its managing director said would be vital if Brexit has an effect on staff numbers. Johnsons aims to invest a further £100,000 in a substantial amount of covered growing and storage space at its Roecliffe site, to prepare for a Brexit eventuality that would affect imports of plants from Europe.

Mr Richardson said: “We don’t know what’s on the horizon and as we are reliant on the economic and supply chain, Brexit has the potential to be catastrophic.

“Staffing is a major consideration for us. At the moment, European workers make up around one third of our nursery workforce. And while we do not envisage an exodus as a result of Brexit, we have to be prepared.

“Consequently, the new production system will reduce the number of people required to complete certain tasks on the retail line.”