Step by Step
This is the most important driver of success. Select a lot that is highly visible and in a high traffic area. The best lots will have traffic that is backed up during rush hour. Customers might not buy then, but they will have time to look you over while they sit in their car.
2. Large Signage
Purchase or make double-facing signs that are 4’x8’. If you are at an intersection of two roads, put a sign on both sides. Before you do this, check with the landlord to ensure it is OK for you to put up large signs.
It is a good idea to run an ad in the local paper. Also, contact the local High School(s) and see if they have a monthly flyer that they send to parents. You might even want to include as an incentive a per tree donation to the school for each parent that brings in the advertisement. Make sure you have your advertising set up no later than September.
4. Business Essentials
- Electricity – can you tap into existing power at your lot? Do you need to buy or rent a generator?
- Credit Card Processing – if you plan on processing credit cards, you will need to complete an application with the processor which includes a credit check. Do this well in advance of the selling season.
- Contact all of your vendors well before the selling season. I like to place all of my orders for wreath decorating supplies, Christmas tree stands, and other retail items in August. Click here to see some of the products we recommend.
- Keep in contact with your tree/wreath/garland supplier(s) throughout the year. Christmas tree growers don’t always have the same number of trees available every year…make sure you lock in your order six months prior to the selling season.
- Insurance – make sure to get liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance in place by September. There is often extensive paperwork that needs to be completed in order to get insurance.
Display your trees in a way that makes it easy for customers to see all sides. Even better, try to make it look like a Christmas tree forest. The kids love this and have sooo much fun visiting the Christmas tree “farm.” The best way we have found to do this is the spike method. Click here to see how this works.
Controlling this cost is the key to making money with a tree lot. If you are a non-profit organization, take advantage of members. If you can get free labor, your organization will make a killing with Christmas tree sales. If not, local high schools are a great place to get labor. The kids are out of school at your busiest times… weekends and evenings. You may even want to make a donation to one of the sports teams at the school. Contact the coach and let him how good of a workout the kids will get at the tree lot. This will also drive business…parents and neighbors will want to come out and support Johnny at his new job!
7. Customer List
Make sure to record the name and address of every customer that writes a check and put a “guestbook” out for other customers to give their information. Every year, in September, send these customers postcards reminding them of your location and hours. Make sure to include “If you want a part time job call…” This will help significantly with finding workers. Finally, if you ever have to move your lot, you will have the ability to let your customers know where the new location is.
About 25 years ago, we had a very successful lot in Northern Virginia. A competing seller got the great idea to offer the landlord 4 times the rent we were paying if he could use the lot for Christmas tree sales. What he didn’t know was that we had a mailing list of almost all of our 3000+ customers. We relocated the lot about a mile away and to let our customers know, we not only sent them a postcard, but called each and every one of them. Needless to say, someone had a pile of trees on there lot Dec 26… and it wasn’t us.
8. Customer First
You’ve heard it a thousand times, “The customer is always right.” It amazes me when I see a retail establishment that doesn’t hold true to this philosophy. We take it a step further by delivering a new tree to a customer if they have an issue, which is not often. We offer refunds graciously… it is very rare that someone will take advantage of this policy. When is does happen, we just grin and bear it!
9. Delivery Service
Many customers would like to have their tree delivered. If you have a pick-up truck available, offer this service for a charge. Make sure that you have a limited delivery range… there is not much profit in driving 20 miles though rush hour traffic to deliver a tree.
10. Setup Service
Our customers love this service. We sell a large quantity of 10’ plus trees, and it is a tough job for a homeowner to set it up on their own. This can also be very profitable. Don’t set your prices too low…customers do not mind paying for this service. It is not unusual to see a price of $100+ to set up a 10’+ tree.