Christmas Trends: London Christmas Tree Rental

Catherine Loveless organised an event last year for children’s mini tree site Holly Berry she had no idea that the avenue of potted mature Christmas firs which children meandered through Narnia-style would come to be the stars of the show.

But they were and she “inadvertently ended up becoming the London agent for the trees” – even arranging for them to appear on the One Show set. Loveless realised that there was an unfulfilled demand for Christmas trees that looked as beautiful on day 30 as they did on day one, and that came with a sustainable message. After all what is more unsustainable than the UK’s annual count of seven million trees cut to celebrate for just one month of the year, most of which end up in landfill sites.

This year marks the first for London Christmas Trees Rental after friends and family tried out the scheme in 2018. Loveless herself is an unlikely horticultural hero. As the retired English National Ballet dancer says: “This is a pure passion project.” Perhaps it was always inevitable that with the renting phenomenon in full swing trees were just the next frontier and as Loveless claims “once people know about it they just love the idea”. 

So what does setting up a company to rent festive trees actually entail? The first hurdle for the company was to find a place to operate from. “All of the parks already have their supplier and we couldn’t get people to engage with it,” she says. But eventually a hub in Wimbledon was located. Customers in the SW19 area will therefore be able to come and pick up/drop off trees themselves but everyone else in the London area will need to arrange a delivery which comes at a cost of £10 there and £10 return.

Clearly Loveless hopes to tap into the eco-conscious market segment but her ultimate aim is more radical still. “It would be fantastic and holistic if people rented the same tree year after year,” she admits. To that end the trees come with a luggage label name tag and users are encouraged to personalise the tree with a name.

On the site the trees are given titles such as Mr Kensington (3ft as Kensington is the smallest borough) or Mr Bromley (7ft as Bromley is the biggest) – this is possibly the logical conclusion of the current trend towards humanising everything in our lives which began with pets. Shoppers will be encouraged to think of their Christmas tree as a living part of the family which will require nurturing, daily watering and keeping a safe distance from heat.

Additionally if users begin with small trees then as the children grow the tree grows too (until it grows out of the home!) “Adopt a tree – that’s the ideal we are aiming for” says Loveless who is hoping that the idea of a living rather than slowly dying tree as the centre piece of Christmas will catch on and allow her to expand out of London.

The trees all come from a farm in Gloucestershire and that is where they will be returned to after pick up in January. She works alongside a business partner and together they have narrowed down the ideal tree species for this scheme to the Norway Spruce – even though the most popular type in the UK currently is the Nordmann Fir, and this is because the Norway Spruce reacts better to being pot grown than any other.

Consumers will be advised that renting might not be appropriate if they are going away for Christmas but otherwise delivery will be organised for the first two weekends of Christmas with pick up on 3-5 January. And what happens when a customer attempts to persuade the company to take back a half dead tree? In extreme cases the deposit will be retained but Loveless does not anticipate very much trouble in that regard. “I’ve found that if people are keen enough to do this then they will normally have some sense of responsibility, enough consciousness not to neglect the tree” she counters.

Eventually she would like the whole enterprise to be very green indeed. “We are working towards electric delivery vans” she says and the site states that the tree netting used is biodegradable. There are companies offering this service in the UK already but Loveless thinks she is the first to operate in London. Either way, tapping into the sustainable agenda and using personalisation to really place the tree at the heart of the festivities seems to be a pretty canny move.