Plan For The Long Haul
So, you are considering operating a Christmas tree retail lot and offering Nova Scotia Christmas trees, If so, there are a few things that you should consider before you begin. One of the first things is whether you are in this for the long haul or if you are simply trying to off load a few trees before Christmas for some quick money.
First of all you should picture your business not as selling a commodity rather you are selling a service as well. It is proven that when a family decides to purchase a Christmas tree, the majority will return to the same location as long as they had a good experience the previous year. The key is to provide that good experience that will keep people coming back year after year.
Offer Good Quality
Check out our grades.
The little things are important
You should be set up to do the little things on your lot, things like offering to make a fresh cut, trimming tops, possibly bailing the tree (either by hand or machine), carrying the tree to a vehicle and offering to tie a tree on a vehicle. It may cost you 3 cents worth of bailer twine or take you 20 seconds to trim the bottom off the trunk of a tree, however to the little lady who may live alone in a apartment, these tasks are enormous and she will be back along with her friends.
It is important to have a variety to choose from on your lot as customers seem to appreciate browsing. The majority of people are looking for the typical 6-8′, 2/3’s tapered tree, with med to high density however, keep in mind peoples tastes and needs are as different as their personalities. You will need some smaller trees maybe some light density trees and a few larger trees for higher ceilings. A few wreaths may be needed as well. Our sales staff will have suggestions on what percentages you might want.
You have to be able to read your customer and their needs. When a customer comes on the lot be friendly and let the customer know you’re available if they need any help but don’t pressure them. Some customers will want you to basically hold their hand and pick out a tree for them. If so try and find out what their tastes are, it helps to ask three things, what is their desired taper?, height?, and density? Once you know this, you can usually find what they are looking for. On the other hand, some customers like to be left alone and do all the work themselves. Thirty years ago, for many kids the Christmas ritual was to go with their parents to the back lot and cut down their own tree. For many of these same people, today’s ritual is to go to the local retail lot and have their kids pick out the family tree so it is important to give these people their space. Unfortunately however, you will have some people trying to find what is wrong with every tree instead of trying to pick out a tree. Show no more that 3-4 trees to a customer at a time then encourage them to look around for themselves while indicating you are going to help another customer and will be available if needed. Otherwise, your time will be consumed dealing with someone who may not even buy a tree. It also helps when you recognize someone from other years to make that connection and ask for feedback on their tree from last year. Customers seem to appreciate that connection. It’s not always possible but remembering the customer’s first name makes them feel welcomed. They say in sales the most powerful word is the customer’s first name.
Lot layout and configuration
Your lot configuration will depend on the space that you have and the materials and equipment available to display your product. Regardless, your lot should serve two purposes; one is making your product visible and accessible to the customer. The second purpose is to make your job the easiest it can be. Some tips to consider: Keep your bigger trees closer to the lot exit, have your discount trees away from the entrance or main travel area so customers see the best and more expensive trees first, have a small open display area so you can show trees in the available light when selling after dark. Consider picking and displaying a ‘tree of the day’ (usually a high priced tree but normal height). Recycle trees often, if a tree does not sell after a few days, it may need to be cut back, or move it to the discount bin if there is damage. Sometimes all it takes is to move it to a different location with different lighting and accessibility and often it may be one of the next trees to go. In addition, as branding is crucial for business recognition, having a name or sign that associates your product from other lots and locations is important and helps identify you from year to year.
Ideally trees should be stored standing up in a cool shaded area out of the wind and away from concrete or pavement. Unfortunately most vacant lots for rent are paved giving you a challenge.
Always stand your trees where you have the least exposure to the sun (north facing wall!)
Do not get your trees in too early! If you need a few early trees for a special event then talk to our sales staff maybe something can be arranged. If the weather is still warm it is best to hold off delivery for when it cools off or when sales are about to kick in (usually the first full weekend in December).
It is important to educate people about Christmas trees and the benefits of going green and their benefits to the environment (check this out on our website). Offer to make a fresh cut and explain the importance of this and keeping water in the tree stand at all times after it is put up. Have pamphlets on the benefits of real vs. artificial and explain the work that goes into producing a tree for market as well as tips on how to care for the tree over the holidays.
Your prices should be competitive your area market and reflect the type of product and service you provide. Your price list should be as simple as possible and trees graded accordingly. There are several reasons for this, one of which is that if a price list is available and the trees graded accordingly, customers know what the tree is worth when they are looking at it which is less demanding on your time. Another reason is that you don’t want to spend the majority of time making odd change. Also our different color Grade Tag on a bottom branch can be used as a price guide. This way you can have one price representing several grades. (i.e.: Premium, 6-8′ tree is the same price as a Number one grade, 8-10′ tree.) Stick to your prices and offer a lower grade tree if customer doesn’t want to pay.
Record keeping is crucial to operating and maintaining a retail lot. This helps in a variety of way including making things easier during tax time but probably more importantly it gives you information on trends, number of trees sold, slow and busy days and how weather or external factors play a part in your sales. Being able to predict how your year will shape early is instrumental in deciding how many trees to buy. Pro-rating based on previous years data is a continual task and can be made much easier if you have accurate records and notes from previous years. The benefit is that it reduces the chances of running out early or having too much stock left over.
First Time Retailers
Please consult our sales staff on how to order for your area. Try to get some information in your area, demographics, lot location and visibility as well as accessibility for traffic. Once people see you they have to get to you with ease.
If you are a fund raising organization do as much pre-selling as possible to cut down on volunteer time. If you are just selling within your organization then set pickup dates for trees. Try to do this so the trees are not sitting around for long periods of time after delivery. Our grading is consistent so opening the tree may not be necessary for all sales