A Christmas tree retail business can be a quick source of income for someone willing to invest the time and effort. Many lots are operated by charitable organizations to gain some extra funds around the holidays. Trees, when bought in bulk, do not have a high per-item cost, and a good-sized, well-shaped Christmas tree can net up to $200. Opening a Christmas lot to sell trees requires several steps be taken to be successful, such as finding a good location, arranging to get a good supply of trees and offering good customer service.
Get Necessary Permits or Licenses
Check with your city or regional governmental office to see what types of permits or licenses you need to obtain prior to opening a Christmas tree lot. Examples of these include a business license, utility permits or a sales tax permit.
Seek a Location
Find a suitable location for your tree lot. Pick a location that does not have any competition for business. Contact landowners of potential roadside locations and negotiate a rental fee for the period of time you plan to operate the Christmas tree lot. Verify the location is zoned properly to allow retail sales.
Look for a location suitable for the amount of trees you plan to sell, as well as room for parking and a place for a trailer or portable building from which to conduct business. Check that the lot has power supply access. Otherwise, plan to invest in several generators to supply power to the lot.
Choose a Tree Grower
Locate a grower who can provide you with the type and amount of trees you wish to sell. Include a variety of tree types, such as fir, pine, spruce and evergreen, in various shapes and sizes. Determine what kind of payment arrangement you will have with the grower, such as upfront, halfway or end of season. Arrange to have the trees delivered to your location or pick them up yourself.
Plan Your Operating Schedule
Decide how long you plan to sell the Christmas trees. Many lots set up about two weeks before Thanksgiving and run all the way through Christmas Eve night. Determine your operating hours.
Find Operators and Security Professionals
Hire workers and plan your lot security. Many tree lot operators set up a trailer with sleeping quarters on the lot. Otherwise, plan to hire a security guard to watch over the lot during nonoperational hours. Hire staff or, if you are working with a charitable organization, make an appeal for volunteers to help you set up, sell and load trees for customers.
Set Up Your Tree Lot
Set up the lot. Place your temporary office or shelter in a convenient location near the front. Set up lighting, including portable light poles and lights strung around the perimeter on poles you have set up. Don't skimp on the lighting as you want to allow your customers to see your trees well, and you want to be able to be seen by passersby.
Obtain Business Equipment and Supplies
Obtain all materials needed to sell Christmas trees to customers, such as a cash register or cash box, portable credit card machine and a telephone (to take checks). Have a couple of small saws, sharp knives and twine available to set up and load trees onto vehicles for customers. Plan to sell additional items like wreaths and Christmas decorations to add to your profit margin.
Handle Your Advertising
Arrange for advertising. Obtain a lighted sign that has basic information about your trees. Place online ads in free local publications and websites. If you are working with a charitable organization, try to arrange for advertising time on local radio or television stations.
Set Up the Trees
Place the trees up for sale. Go through your inventory and choose the best-looking trees for all the varieties you have. Place the most aesthetically pleasing trees near the front of your location.
Unwrap your trees (most trees come shipped to you lightly wrapped in plastic, or tied with twine to save space) and set up as many trees as your lot can hold, leaving enough room for customers to walk around to look at and inspect the trees. Be prepared to answer any questions your customers may have about type, care, size and price.
Clean Up After Closing
Arrange to have any leftover trees removed. Leftover tress can be sold in bulk for mulch and wood chips, or for erosion control. Clean up the lot and remove any temporary items like lighting fixtures and buildings.
Based in Virginia Beach, Mark S. Baker has been working in editorial for more than 20 years. He has served as a writer and editor for publications such as the "Houston Post," "Boca Raton News" and "Interactive Week," among others. Baker also has a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales University and has his own catering business.