Discussion in 'Christmas Trees & Seasonal' started by addictedtolandscaping, May 20, 2010.

  1. addictedtolandscaping

    addictedtolandscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    from NY
    Messages: 569

    Good morning Everybody:

    I find I am rehashing my pre-season thoughts, just curious as to what others ensure they have on hand. I had a few things I found myself in a bind with last year, c-9 was a tough one, but I was able to get around it in the long run with a different supplier.

    I did just join another chamber of commerce, I really enjoyed the commercial work last year, and want to continue down that path, I found it was a totally different mind set, and though they may not spend what a residential client will, chances are they will do something. My thoughts are it is more likely a sale at some level and the exposure is amazing. with the preseason, HBL has a discount on shipping so with rehashing conversations with Mike, I agree with him on bringing in the LTL shipped items, as opposed to other things.

    So I was just curious as to what you all would prefer to have on hand, and what items would be lest likely to be sitting in my storage unit at the end of the season unsold.

    Any suggestions would be great. Thanks everybody.
  2. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,645

    pre season stuff I have worked on so far-

    container order from HBL done. We do this every other year, and we seem to carry over about 1/2 of the container for next year. I hate investing cash flow in inventory that does not make money til the 2011 season, but we are saving about 5k in shipping costs, so I am biting the bullet.

    Shop is still under construction, another thread on that , must be closed in by Sept 6. If not, roof has got to be at least on for dry storage of container above. we will finish what we have to on the shop and rack construction from Dec 10 through Dec 25.

    3, 6x 11 postcards are being worked on by my marketing company and will be done and printed by July. they will be 10,000 quantity saturation mailed Sept 1, Oct 1, Nov. 1. budget for all including mailing is around 6k.

    uniforms are here, but probably need a few more jackets embriodered.

    need to buy and have graphics done on 2 boxvans by Sept 6. we really need these, and I have to find them somewhere in the US and drive them back. my budget for both is 8.5k total plus 1000 for graphics. my tarp sytem thread is somewhere on here.

    need graphics for our trailer, 500 bucks.

    need to get prepay letter out to customers in the next few weeks and then call folks in July to nail down super early install ( Sept 6-30) or early ( Oct 1- Oct 31 )
    or just regular rehang ( Nov 1- 21 ). we use the cash from these to pay for the above plus finance payroll for the first 6 weeks of the season. some folks don't pre-pay but get a discount for early, so we can collect some rehang money in Sept and Oct. but most prepay. I try to use that money very carefully.

    I am planning 2 seasons out at this point because I finally am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on asset purchase. we should buy 2 more boxvans in 2011, a new truck for me, and have the warehouse insulated, and we will be done spending cash for assets for what I hope is 3-5 years after that. This year will be the worst, 2011 better, and 2012 season and on should be a good run of few breathing years.
  3. addictedtolandscaping

    addictedtolandscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    from NY
    Messages: 569

    Good morning Dave

    I was hoping you would get a chance to chime in, 1) your level of expertise and 2) I saw last year with reading the thread that you look in advance very effectively. Everyone has been so friendly and helpful in offering advice to me when I ask. I was hoping to make it in July to meet some of you guys personally, but as I discussed with Mike, no state budget here still, and where I reorganized to (essentially landscaping is at a complete halt so I upgraded one of the dump trucks to a tri axle as I have friends with the larger contractors here, but everyone is dependent upon the state budget and bureaucracy reigns as of now). I would like to get to the point to head towards a container next year the cost savings would be phenomenal. I am completely out of greenery, much to my surprise, I ended up bringing in additional wraths right up to the week before Christmas last year, I couldn't keep the battery operated wreaths in stock, they were committed before they would even be shipped. Looking back at it, it still surprises me as I was totally convinced I would never move any of it over what was in the original package, let alone NEVER sell any trees. All my original 4' mixed nobles went, the two sierra's I had went, and I believe 3 or 4 cases of the battery operated. I have zero wreaths left, and one or two strands of mixed noble garland. I have a full case of clear, red, blue and green mini's, 890 clear c-9, full case of opaque, full case of colored clear, about 890 ft of c-9 cord, 23 male and female c-9 plugs, case of gutter, all in one and gable clips (plus remainder of those shipped with light links) about a dozen and a half of miscellaneous leads, found them here at Lowes last year for less, so was buying between 12 and 24 a couple times. I am completely out of jumpers. Light-links, I honestly believe I am ok on these for a while, HBL seems to have them at any given time essentially (at least for my requirement last year) and I have about 4 cases of blizzard and two of icicles left. The only luminaries I used ended up being at my house with the exception of the scr**ing I took from one customer - along the lines of what Stacy and Carlos dealt with so I have plenty of starbursts for a while as well, 4 of each 12, 18, and 24.

    What I know I need for sure is more mixed nobles, Mike and I have discussed larger wreaths numerous times and I him-and-haw then when I think back over the conversations with him, I find my rational thought process (those not including the wallet) always end up agreeing with him. I am always afraid I am going to end up sitting on material whenever I think about it. As I mentioned to him last week, I can tell you when and what landscaping etc is going to sell here but holiday lighting, I am the pioneer so there is no example to go off of.

    As for uniforms. I bought sweatshirts, t-shirts and winter hats from HBL last year, ( sweatshirts not nearly heavy enough for NY winters). I do want to get some Carhart type jackets done this year, one of the projects I got it was so cold that fresh coffee was freezing in under 10 minutes. I have not developed a budget for apparel this year. I as well would prefer to have jackets embroidered as opposed to screened, the HBL apparel held up fantastic, all still look new. I was also considering baseball style hats (especially as I am follicle challenged LOL) and always have a hat on my head. Truck graphics all came from Design 8 last year and still look awesome, local shop blew up the lawn sign (avatar) and used them on the sides of the trailer last year need to get the rear doors done. Still have 20 or so lawn signs left over. I also have ladders ranging from 6' step to 32' extension, access to aerial lifts that only cost me time to deliver and pick up myself. Eventually I will moved to a truck with a lift but expect it to be a couple years down the road anyhow. I also purchased a set of climbing gear last year (you may recal me mentioning almost coming down on my head, harness, ropes now permanently part of the equipment in the trailer etc).

    I recently joined another COC and advertising budget will get abused pretty extensively there, about 19000 circulation on their monthly magazine distribution, adds are pricey. I do prefer the commercial end of the business though, I found that those clients were more apt to do something, was worth the time spent with them, as opposed to alot of time spent with residential that ended up doing nothing. I actually have the business directory on my desk next to me, and intend to start calling today trying to get info and cover some ground. I developed a bit of a newsletter and sent that out Saturday morning also advising of a pre season sale so to speak, more to getting thoughts headed that way over actual sales, rehang letters with a attached discount will go out in July with the same thought you mentioned, early cash flow. With any luck, I will get a few appointments scheduled with banks (noticed yesterday that one of the banks around the corner from my house has mini lights in trees, and I just established a commercial line with them, left cards there when I signed the loan papers for the dump truck ;-).

    My goal for this year, 50-75k. That essentially doubles last year; I will have totally recouped my investment and start realizing a profit. I also will be aiming for early rehangs, I have a project that incorporates 17 trees with mini lights in them, I would like to rehang the trees as soon as the leaves are down, then will return to put their wreath up on the building (this is the project that has the 12' wreath 60 feet up on the building.) Another that has a 40 plus foot blue spruce - customer decided to leave the mini's and LED snow flakes in the tree after this past season, so I will also be resetting them, then will return to set gift boxes out and do some final tweaking on lower elevation items. Large concern for this year will be adequate help.
  4. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,645

    The nice thing about foliage, especially the noble mix, is it will sell either this year or next. I just hate carrying inventory over. you do get a return on your investment, but it still takes a bundle of cash out of your pocket for a year. I have light links in inventory I bought 9 years ago from brite ideas, along with various small luminaries, and even some stuff that came with the franchise when we purchased it. it just sits there, gathering dust, a testimony to the danger of buying product before you sell it.

    I really always intended to carry some inventory, such as maybe 3 of each wreath size in the noble mix, 3 cases of the the garland, maybe 6 cases of each link, and then order and replace as you sell it. the reality is you still want to have zero inventory on Dec 10 or so. and then you don't want to spend cash at the beginning of the next season, and so on. On C-9's I always seem to have a few thousand feet around, and I get nervous and order 4 rolls or so when we drop below that. clear c-9 bulbs are the same. all in one clips I try to never drop below 5 thousand on hand. I have watched 3 crews eat through 2-3 thousand of those suckers in a couple of days.

    HBL does seem to always have links, but they ran out of several 2 years back, and for several years ran out of Noble foliage, or not have something at the beginning of the busy season, they also have run out of bows for wreaths, LED c-9 bulbs, etc. I have lost thousands in dollars of sales ( but not tens of thousands, to be fair ) because HBL is out of one thing or another. They try to do what I do, run out of stuff around Dec 10. they just cannot control when someone out there sells 400 strands of garland to a mall, or a city on Nov 7. and while they may still have some left, then they run out on the next big order.

    On the Chamber of Commerce thing, here they have thursday morning breakfast meet and greet times that are free to members, and free for the first 3 visits to guests. after that you have to join the COC for around 300 bucks for the year. You pass out cards, grip and grab, etc. I find that these networking events lead to sales in both landscape and Christmas sales just from meeting folks and passing out cards. Mine are the tent cards that have 3 photo's on the inside and back, so people immediately get what I do.

    I really would not classify a container savings as super or great, but rather, good. if you sell it all in one year, then yes, in the great category. I saved around 5k in shipping, but I had to essentially take 17k out of my pocket and carry that much inventory from Dec 10 this year til Dec 10 2011. so really, you get to save 2.5k this year and next, and you have to spend 14.5k to get that 2500 bucks "interest" on your investment. so it is like investing 14, 500 in the stock market and knowing you will make a 17 percent return on that 14,500.

    It also insulates you for one year of wholesale price increases from HBL, which you are aware of the steep hit we got this year on the garland, about a 20 % price increase. I seem to time my container loads poorly, the same price increase happened in 2008 when I did my last container, and in 2009 when I used the reamainder of that container, and ordered very little product, surprise surprise, they had no price increases. this year, boom. I am almost hoping for another steep hit next year when I don't have to buy too much stuff, so I can "save" more money.

    I would say you have a reasonable sales goal set, and the 2nd year is so much easier than the first. the third and fourth years the new sales seem to keep going up and then level off.

    Try to keep going after commercial c-9's, they become the backbone of super early installs and they also don't take up much space in the warehouse.
    Last edited: May 24, 2010
  5. britelights

    britelights LawnSite Member
    Messages: 91

    Oh dear...It's barely June 1st and you guys are already making me feel like I'm behind the 8-ball!! I haven't checked this site in a while and decided to browse a few landscape lighting posts...didn't expect to see talk about this Christmas lights season already!

    David --- when do you send out renewal letters? We sent them out earlier than ever last year -- August 15th. But it sounds like you send yours even earlier than that. Refresh my you ask for a 50% deposit on the rehang? Just curious -- we started that 2 years ago and love it.

    As far as preorder...we are placing a preorder with HBL -- but much smaller than last year. That's only because of the issue with the large commercial client. If ya'll remember -- they filed bankruptcy -- still owe us $7k -- but we have their product. So if they don't pay balance -- we'll have quite a bit of stock to sell. A ton of garland anyway. far as preorder and stock...we like to preorder the "basics" --- our most popular lightlinks, mixed noble & sierra garland, 3' wreaths, 4' wreaths, some bows, extension cords, etc.

    We haven't been able to roll out the landscape lighting quite as planned yet. Although we DO HAVE landscape lighting at our own house now -- yay!! We have everything lined up and ready to go...just haven't been able to market because we've been busy working on a mission trip. Or rather --- getting ready and collecting equipment and donations for a mission trip. We leave on Tuesday for the Dominican Republic. You can check out our blog: We're very excited! Although the business side of me is disappointed we haven't been able to concentrate on landscape lighting as planned, I know we're doing what God wants us to do right now. And as soon as we're back from our trip --- it's back to work!
  6. addictedtolandscaping

    addictedtolandscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    from NY
    Messages: 569

    Nah, I started this back in February Stacey. LOL, talked to Mike today and actually ordered some catalogs.
    Things here in NY really stink financially, the massive recession that hit here still hasn't really let up, I sold some landscaping equipment I wasn't using, bought a triaxle dump truck as I am surrounded by large contractors since I am minutes from Albany, there was a major shortage of trucking contractors last year, so it made perfect sense, and the money is really good, that is if the bureaucrats do what they are being paid for. Here we are a quarter of the way through the season, no state budget, and as a result, no work for us contractors and even large highway projects are shutting down, the ones that aren't, are back to skeleton crews, heavy highway contractors are looking at laying off people they brought back, and still haven't brought back everyone. Things are really dismal. Hence as a result, I haven't booked the flight for the convention, my son is really miffed, he was coming this year as he worked right along side me last season, but it is one of those things when the budget does get passed, things are going to be really hectic here, not sure I want to pass up the $750 a day, will have to wait and see what happens.

    I actually started cold calling today, no appointments yet, but definitely a lot of interest, hopefully the above will square up quickly, then I will get an order of postcards in and ship them out the end of August I think.

    Something to remember, God will take care of you, as you and Carlos are doing His work, putting others in front of yourselves, I am quite confident He will bless you with much success when you are able to embark fully on the landscape lighting venture.

    As for the thread, yeah it has been dead, I pop in a couple times a week to see if anyone is gearing up yet. LOL, it was fairly active last year, was my main source of info with all the great people here, not enough gratitude I could offer for all the help and guidance I have gotten and continue to get.

    I hope your trip is safe and blessed.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2010
  7. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,645

    My prepay letter goes out this month. I have sent it out around July 4 in the past, but folks have been asking for it earlier to have more time to take advatage of the discounts. All my rehang customers have options. they can prepay and get a discount, based on how early they pay. the earlier, the better the percentage off. They also can sign up now for a super early, early or regular season rehang time whether they prepay or not. but I state in the letter that pre-pay customers get preference, and if the schedule fills up with super early folks who prepay, they don't get the discount, etc.

    many customers just wait and hang in November and pay after we hang it. that's fine too.

    Stacy and Carlos- Good luck in Dominican Republic. I was there on vacation in February. ( enjoyed your hospitality and talking with you guys in Houston around the same time in Feb. as well ! )

    I will also be doing some mission work In July a couple of countries up in the Carribbean in Honduras. my third summer going down there.

    it is also the reason I will be missing the HBL convention. I was going to fly direct from getting into Houston on that friday to Omaha friday evening, but then I was asked to Usher at my Sister In law's wedding the next day.

Share This Page