In short supply: Suez snarl-up, virus hit UK gnome market

·2-min read
Garden centres have seen a 'massive upswing' in gnome sales during coronavirus lockdowns

High demand during lockdown and supply problems following the Suez Canal blockage have caused a shortage of garden gnomes in Britain, the BBC reported on Thursday.

The small bearded characters -- often with a trowel or fishing rod in hand or sitting beneath a toadstool -- have been beloved by British gardeners since the 19th century.

But in the wake of last month's snarl-up in Suez, caused when a 200,000-tonne megaship got stuck in a sandstorm, supplies of the diminutive garden guardians have dried up.

Many of the decorative ornaments, which can be made of plastic, stone or concrete, have been left languishing in shipping containers.

Garden Centre Association chief executive Iain Wylie said supply chains had been under pressure during the pandemic and because of the canal blockage.

"With goods arriving from abroad, garden centres were affected by the ship getting stuck in the canal as much as any other industry," he told the broadcaster.

"Garden furniture, ornaments, of which gnomes would be some, being stuck in containers trying to come over here."

Ian Byrne, of Highfield Garden World in Gloucestershire, western England, said there had been a "massive upswing" in gnome sales during the coronavirus lockdown.

"We haven't seen a gnome in six months now unfortunately," the assistant manager said, blaming a shortage of raw materials.

"Gnomes of any type -- plastic, stone or concrete -- are in short supply. They've been very popular over the last couple of seasons."

The Swedish furniture giant Ikea said last month that it had similarly experienced supply problems because of high demand and shipping problems.

Massive container ship the Ever Given got stuck on March 23, triggering a mammoth six-day-long effort to dislodge it.

Maritime data company Lloyd's List said the blockage by the vessel, longer than four football fields, held up an estimated $9.6 billion (£7 billion, 8 billion euros) in cargo between Asia and Europe each day it was stuck.

Britain on Monday made a significant step towards opening its economy, re-opening non-essential retail and allowing pubs and restaurants to serve outside after months of restrictions across England.

csp/phz/tgb