Analysis

How Needlefresh shipped 650,000 Christmas trees in four weeks

The decision on whether to buy a real or plastic Christmas tree usually depends on personal taste, with very few people if any thinking about the impact their choice has on logistics.

But for Christmas tree suppliers such as Needlefresh, the current move away from plastics has led to a growth in demand for real trees, which places important time constraints on delivery. The company sells through retailers such as Waitrose and is owned by growers.

These are based mainly in the UK, although there are also some in Denmark, Ireland, France and Belgium. The biggest growing site is near Inverness, Scotland.

Working with Eddie Stobart, Needlefresh’s products have covered the length of the UK over 300 times delivering 500,000 trees, with an additional 150,000 being supplied through other hauliers. All in all, Eddie Stobart provided 800 delivery vehicles to meet the fulfilment target of 72 hours, with 716 loads including 90 batches by rail.

The most important pressure is the shelf life of cut trees, which can’t be cut before 10 November. For pot-grown trees, which are still alive, the time pressure is less.

One of the ways that the company deals with this is through automation. The company has bespoke software which, once an order is taken, makes this information available to Eddie Stobart and schedules transport. The haulier can have a lorry at any given site within half a day.

While retailers make orders in advance based on last year’s demand, some have the capabilities to give rough bulk orders and then increase or decrease this figure according to demand.

The system keeps a rolling update of what stock growers have available to sell, so that if the order is relatively generic they can fulfil more easily from a local seller.

Image credit: Needlefresh