A second wind for Christmas tree sales

Christmas tree farmer Andrew Stenton who set up Billingley Christmas tree farm after the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001. Picture Scott Merrylees
Christmas tree farmer Andrew Stenton who set up Billingley Christmas tree farm after the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001. Picture Scott Merrylees
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One of the region’s largest Christmas tree farms is seeing an additional spike in sales as workers from Europe put up their festive decorations much later on in the season.

Billingley Christmas Tree Farm in Barnsley says it is now seeing another sales spike just before Christmas as it is customary in certain parts of Europe to put up a tree a week before December 25.

Andrew Stenton, who runs the farm, said that orders would normally dwindle in the final week up to Christmas but that they now have an “emerging market”.

He added: “Once English people have got their’s it tails off but now in the last week we’re getting a spike from Eastern European people coming to get their Christmas trees.”

Billingley, which has also provided trees for BBC’s Still Open All Hours Christmas special, has sold around 15,000 Christmas trees this year. As well as having its own plantation, the business also buys in trees from other UK farms.

“We’re planting around 10,000 trees every year annually,” says Mr Stenton, adding that in January the farm will begin taking stock of how many plants it will need.

Billingley won an award for Best Norway Spruce Grower in the UK this year. An accolade which has also boosted sales says Mr Stenton, who runs the business with his wife Sally.

“That’s really helped us,” he said, “so we’re having nice growth this year.”

Billingley, which has also in the past provided trees for Dr Who Christmas specials, has a retail site at New Hall Farm. Mr Stenton says they look to provide a festive experience for customers coming to collect their trees with a Santa’s grotto.

The business is hoping to expand and has its sights set on launching another retail offering.

Online is also increasingly playing a role in boosting sales at Billingley.

Mr Stenton said: “That’s grown the business because its helping us reach out to areas where we can’t get to with our retail site.

“It’s a specialist area though. You’ve got to react quickly. We’ve got to pack trees quickly and get them over to the couriers to ensure freshness.”

Billingley was established as a Christmas farm in 2001 in an attempt at farm diversification.

Mr Stenton said: “We started the business just after the foot and mouth crisis. We had pedigree cattle and we couldn’t turn them into sales so we started selling a few Christmas trees.”

The move paid off and now cattle is “just a hobby”, says Mr Stenton.

Tuffnells sees demand increase

Parcels distributions firm Tuffnells Parcels Express is expecting another record year for Christmas tree deliveries.

The Sheffield-based firm has experienced another busy festive period as demand exceeded last year’s figure of 7,000.

Tuffnells counts Billingley Christmas Tree Farm as one of its clients.

Elaine Keep, marketing manager at Tuffnells Parcels Express, said: “For many, nothing kick-starts the season’s festivities quite like the smell of a fresh Christmas tree.

“In recent years, we’ve noticed an increase in the number of trees we’re delivering as more people opt for these traditional options over artificial alternatives.”