The Christmas Forest has become well-known for their real trees of exceptional quality that remain beautiful throughout the festive season. But did you know for every tree sold, The Christmas Forest plants a twin in Africa? Founder Kelty Caston tells us more
Let’s start at the beginning Kelty – what inspired The Christmas Forest?
I have always loved Christmas and we always had a real tree. Also I was thinking of leaving teaching and thought this might be possible – there was a rugby club entrance by my house with good roadside exposure and easy car access.
What did you want to offer that was so different?
Celebrating and supporting the outdoor experience of choosing your own tree – and having the best trees.
What was the response like in the early days?
Good – but it is a hard trade to build. I did a lot of pavement pounding, slept in the cabin a couple of nights and just about broke even in the first year.
What are the five different varieties of tree you sell?
Norway Spruce – traditional, aromatic but short lived in the home; Nordmann fir – luxuriant foliage, good shape, good needle retention; Fraser fir – narrow shape with balsam fragrance; Noble fir – darker blue foliage and bark, layered structure, aromatic; Value Nordmann – a cheaper nordmann, not so full or regular. We also have living trees.
Would you say the service and advice you offer isn’t replicated anywhere else?
We do take a lot of care with training the staff (training day was yesterday in torrential rain), finding the trees and making the sites a nice place for the customer to choose in. I know we are the only substantial suppliers of premium Noble and Fraser – they are very hard to grow and very few good ones are available.
How did the business lead to you supporting Tree Aid?
It seemed like the right thing to do. After getting over the shock of paying VAT, I wanted to do something more for others. I think that is part of the reason for having a business.
How important is it to the countries you help?
We have funded the planting and nurturing of 120,000 trees in the drylands of the Sahel, West Africa. This is some of the poorest populated land in the world, which is largely de-forested. Trees stabilise the soil, provide crops and firewood and give shade. They bring the country back to life.
You have sites all over London now. A sign of how Londoners have embraced the concept of The Christmas Forest?
We don’t offer anything beyond trees, stands, lights and Christmas greenery, and all these at high quality and low prices. We are tat free. I think people appreciate this when everywhere else you go is piled high with Christmas stuff.
Do you have big plans for the future?
It is hard work to build a trade and quality is important. I would like to keep my current sites and find a new one or two. I am working on bringing in more things for a festive feel; like live music, our wish tree, and mince pies. I would like to do something else as well, perhaps in the summer.
Find out more by visiting christmasforest.co.uk