Growing trees is fun and very gratifying.
Watching a tree grow after planting, spacing, shearing and fertilizing, and observing the transformation of a vacant field or fir thicket turn into a beautiful Christmas tree stand, is very rewarding. At some point in time, the tree grower has to change hats and market his trees. Marketing takes a whole different skill set and is one of the most difficult things for most of us in the tree business.
For every tree grown and harvested there has to be someone who will take it home, and make it the centerpiece of his or her Christmas holiday. So lets have a look at some of the ways we can market our trees
Direct marketing, is when the grower sells directly to the end consumer and is by far the most profitable.
This can be accomplished by establishing a Choose and Cut operation or a retail lot. In both cases the grower can develop a direct relationship with the end consumer, and has the most control creating and maintaining the market. He can insure the customer has a good experience and is happy. The best words a grower can hear after the tree is purchased are ” see you next year”. Unfortunately, in Nova Scotia we grow many more trees than we have people to purchase them, and not all growers have the means or desire to deal directly with the end consumer. This means that most of us are destined to be a wholesaler.
Wholesale marketing can take many forms. The most profitable is to team up with someone that has an existing retail operation and is in need of trees.
This can be a not for profit group using tree sales as a fund-raiser; an established business selling trees as a seasonal item; a private tree lot; or a large chose and cut, needing cut trees to supplement its clientele. They can be located locally, in Canada, the USA or anywhere in the world where trees can be shipped.
In all cases you need to build a relationship with your customer based on trust, understanding of grade, price and service. All are of equal importance, although service is the one over which the grower has the least control.
If your customer’s big sales weekend is the weekend after US Thanksgiving and your truck delivers late, your customer looses sales and your relationship is in jeopardy.
Your trucking company is your representative and part of your team for success. A Trucking Company that is dependable will probably not be the cheapest. Communication is of utmost importance. Educate your client and let your client educate you.
Over the past number of years the big chain stores have become the biggest outlet for retail sales. Selling to the big chains
is most likely accomplished by selling to a large wholesaler who need additional product to fill orders. These wholesalers can be located locally, within Canada or the USA. They are least competitive on price but can purchase large numbers and are usually more flexible on grade, timing and shipping responsibilities.
A number of years age we had sales of about 2/3 of a load of trees going to New Jersey. That summer we decided to go to N.J. and try to pick up an order of about 200 trees to fill the truck and make the load more profitable. We planned our route that
complemented our existing orders, visiting every nursery, garden center or retail outlet that might sell Christmas trees. We had all our promotional information, including pictures, brochures and price lists. Location after location our reception was the same.
The people were nice, they listened to our pitch, but we did not get the since of any real interest. Late in the day I noticed a car
with Quebec license plates had been ahead of us pulling out of a number of previous locations as we were pulling in. At the next stop, after receiving the same reception, we asked if they were getting many people wanting to sell them trees. A couple of the staff looked at each other, smiled and said, we were the third that day and there were 3 the day before.
Our sales trip reminded me of fishing in a brook. You can spend a lot of time casting your bait into every potentially good looking hole that may contain the prize fish, but if the fish are not interested in your bait or to well fed, you are wasting your time.
The Nova Scotia Christmas Tree Council’s Building Tomorrow Marketing strategy is taking a different approach. By building and promoting a web site, which highlights the strengths of the NS Christmas Tree industry and the many exceptional qualities of the NS Balsam Fir tree, we will put our Industry into the lime-light. Different potential markets can be targeted and drawn to this site, making it accessible to anyone wishing to purchase trees from all over the globe.
Instead of fishing blindly in a body of water that may or may not have fish interested in our bait, we are creating a stocked pond of potential buyers that will come to us. Any tree grower ready to do business will have the opportunity to make relationships and set the hook.
There has never been a better time to market your trees. Along with the CTCNS Building Tomorrow marketing efforts, the Christmas Tree Promotion Boards (CTPB), is also helping our cause. After the positive check off vote of last year, the CTPB is set to continue building momentum for the next 7 years.
Changing consumers buying habits and educating the public on the environmental advantages of buying a real tree over a fake
tree. In addition to creating more demand for real trees, the CTPB is also working on research programs on many fronts. Many of these could have spin off effects for our local Industry.
Fellow tree growers; current market conditions are bright, so, put on your sunglasses, grab your fishing rod, and lets go fishing.