He’s been selling Christmas trees from an alleyway in Sharrow Vale for exactly 30 years but there’s something giving Steve Howe the needle this December: people who have their homes too warm.
Double glazing, improved insulation and central heating may keep us toasty in December.
But Steve reckons that’s led to more and more spruces starting to wilt before the festivities are finished.
“I went round to look at one house and they wanted the tree next to a radiator which was on full blast,” he says. “I had to explain that wasn’t its ideal environment. The trouble is it starts to droop and they blame the tree.”
Steve should know.
He’s been called Sheffield’s Mr Christmas Tree by some. Every year he lets his property business take care of itself for a month and sets up base in a little snicket next to The Mediterranean restaurant in Sharrowvale Road to sell hundreds of trees.
He does it, he says, not for the money (although at £80 for a 10 foot tree, he certainly turns a profit) but because it gets him in the mood for merriment.
“It’s hard work,” he says. “I start at 9.30am and often don’t finish until 10pm, and I’m outside all day, be it rain or shine – and it’s normally rain. But I love doing it.
“I’ve had customers who’ve been coming to me for 20 or 30 years. They know they can get a good tree and some advice on looking after it from a friendly face. That’s better than B&Q, isn’t it?”
The tradition started by accident.
“A fruiterer had bought too many and they weren’t very good so I bought them for a pound and sold them for two,” explains Steve who lives in the city centre’s West One complex but, in rock star style, refuses to disclose his age.
“I sold out. I thought if I could do that with poor trees I could do better with good ones.”
And he has. He normally starts on December 1 and keeps going until Christmas Eve but this year he’s already sold out - “so I get the day off,” he says.
He’ll be back again next year, though, regular as clockwork.
And he’ll be hoping more of us learn to keep the heating down just a little.