15 December, 2021
Branch managers enjoy their seasonal pop-ups
After 10 years selling Christmas trees outside her family’s Devonport home, Lucy McNicoll says it’s probably time to hang up her red gloves.
But with brother Ben and his mates keen to keep the seasonal sideline going, there’ll be no need to pine for what has become a local institution.
“We started it as a high-school job,” says Lucy, now aged 26 and working for a property company.
Ben, 23, who has this year followed his sister in completing a marketing degree, says a big bonus as a holiday earner is “it’s short and sweet”. They expect to sell well over 400 trees before Christmas.
The McNicolls – with trees lined up outside their two-storey Victoria Rd home, set off by a giant blow-up Santa – are among the area’s most visible tree sellers, but these days they’ve got plenty of youthful competition.
Among them is Eric Kostandini, aged 18, who has set up shop for the first time this year, beside his father’s Belmont business, Toni’s Pizzeria.
Hauraki has a second-year sibling team in action as Lulu’s Trees, with Finn, 22, and Lucy Buckeridge, 18, using signs to attract traffic off Lake Rd to their home set-up on Northboro Rd.
“With Covid everyone is a bit over the year and keen to get into Christmas,” says Lucy, whose nickname provided the business with its name.
Fellow Hauraki resident Charlie Anderson operates Charlie’s Trees as an online business, as does the Cheltenham Tree Company.
1st Devonport Scouts have delivered their tree orders for the year, but offer a disposal service in January.
The McNicholls first decided to earn money for university when they realised trees then sold near Waitemata Golf Course were being trucked in by non-residents. They found a supplier and cornered a slice of the market, supplemented by strawberry sales. Sadly, this year, mum Robyn isn’t available to pick up punnets, with a broken foot preventing her driving.
Lucy and Ben are relaxed about the competition that has sprung up. They know the ropes and have plenty of regulars. “We just really enjoy it,” says Lucy.
So too, it seems do the newcomers. They cite being outside and being able to call on friends for help as bonuses to the job. Compared with retail or hospitality, there’s more flexibility.
Work for three weeks, save some money, then have time to relax.
“Everyone can get summer jobs, but I wanted to have fun doing it,” says Eric who lives in Takapuna and has just finished at Birkenhead College. “It’s not like an intense job.”
Eric says lockdown and exams had been tough on students, who missed out on a lot in the last two years. Accordingly he is giving five per cent of his profits to the I Am Hope mental health charity. He plans a gap year next year before looking at university. His friend, Kristoff Muller, is hoping for a scholarship to the United States. “This gives us a chance to experience what being an entrepreneur is like,” he says of their venture. “You also meet people and have a chat.”
Otago University student Lucy Buckeridge said she was enjoying being home in the sun and hanging out with her brother.
“We would always see people selling Christmas trees and Finn said last year, ‘Why don’t we give it a go?’”
Finn, who has just finished a business degree at Victoria, says sales are up on last year.
Tree prices tend to range from under $50 to over $200, with disposal generally extra. Favourite sizes are around 2m, although some are as high as 3m.
“People with the lovely high ceilings want the big trees,” says Lucy McNicoll. But if you haven’t got yours yet, then get moving, as most operators are in the process of packing up for another year.
“Beyondthe17th everyone’sgottheirtrees,” says Lucy.
Except that is for the McNicolls: “We normally take the last one left,” she admits.
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