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Guidance & Shared Industry Best Practices for Garden Center Operating During COVID-19 Pandemic

Tuesday, April 21, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Breanne Chavez
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Guidance & Shared Best Practices:

Garden centers providing access for food grown at home can operate given they implement CDC guidelines and other best practices for social distancing and sanitation. This document provides COVID-19 operational recommendations for Washington Garden Centers and Retail Nurseries to implement in order to conduct business under Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-15, including:


Modified Shopping Experience

  •  Consider modified shopping experiences, including online shopping, call ahead orders, curbside pickup or delivery as available.
  • Consider different days or locations for customers to pick up pre-ordered products and will limit assistance to customers when loading large stock.
  • Limit the number of customers in Garden Center/Nursery at one time so that social distance of 6-feet between customer groups may be maintained. Some garden centers have transitioned to offering shopping by appointment only.
  • Limit the number of customers near the cash registers and in the store at any given time. Many retailers are marking the floor in check-out lines to enforce 6 foot social distancing.
  • Have a Clear Process for Curbside Pickup. Communicate in Advance to Customers:
    • Ask customer if they would like to load their own car.
    • Paint numbers on parking spaces; customers call upon arrival to notified which parking spot they are in.
    • Request customers to open their trunk; return to car or step back 6 feet; staff loads and steps away; customers close trunk.
    • Bring plants and materials to curbside pick-up for customer to load.
  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! Update your website and social media with clear communication about your systems for how customers can purchase your products.

Social Distancing & Sanitation

  •  Follow CDC recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting and implement sanitation practices, including for equipment such as carts, check out areas, and display stands.
  • Facilities should actively maintain routine, scheduled cleaning and sanitization of both production and nonproduction areas. Focus on high risk areas (restrooms, break rooms, locker rooms, first aid areas, etc.) and surfaces (doorknobs, handrails, telephones, faucets, electronics, etc.) that employees regularly come in contact with, and clean and disinfect them frequently and on a regular and schedule.
  • Follow CDC recommendations for social distancing between staff, and between staff and customers
  • Consider posting signage throughout the sales area encouraging customers to only touch or pick-up containers that they intend to purchase.
  • Make large signs to display plant type, variety, cost and other details that may be on the small tags, to eliminate the need to touch the small tags.
  • Clearly mark greenhouse doors with what types of plants are in each structure to limit unnecessary entrance and wandering.
  • Prop doors fully open to eliminate a touchpoint. Consider foot-operated door openers (“handles”) where doors cannot be left open.
  • Increase space between plants to clearly display them. This minimizes the need for customers to pick up and handle containers to inspect them.
  • Allow for entrance through one door and exit through another for good traffic flow.
  • During any season, be sure to do a safety walk-through before opening to the public to address tripping hazards, sharp corners and objects, unsecured overhead items, electrocution hazards, keys removed from equipment and implements down, etc.

Employee Health

  • Sick employees MUST STAY HOME.
  • Encourage/require staff and customers to wear face coverings.
  • Not offer any food or beverages on-site – either for sale or for free to the public

Additional Resources:


  • Information sharing on eCommerce software and integration with POS systems.
  • Estimated Cost analysis for eCommerce: 8-10 people for phone, picking & delivery = $1200 day in labor
  • Review your modified shopping experiences on an ongoing basis and adapt as necessary.
    Ie: Originally no charge for personal shopper or delivery; transition to minimum purchase; look at increasing minimum if required.
  • Provide business cell phones to personal shop via facetime/text.
  • Invest in photography. Set a goal of 50 – 200 items a day to be uploaded. Stage a universal site for photography.
  • Shared reflections on biggest mistakes on launching eCommerce:
    • Logistics of picking orders. How to pull orders internally, including printing, dissemination; picking; confirmation; delivery.
    • Phase I: at first had 1 person do entire order. Phase II: Conduct mass pickings 1x a day; Phase III: Pick orders by department.
    • Communication is key as 1 department or employee hands off to the next in the process. Confirm final payment.
    • Set hours for pulling plant material.
    • The 'Cat is Out of The Bag". Moving forward eCommerce will remain.


WSNLA COVID-19 Member Communications: 

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