tThe Huntington Fire Department has sold 400 to 500 Christmas trees annually as a fundraiser for more than 25 years, but preparations for sale have been different this season.
The department had to pay higher prices to the Pennsylvania tree nursery that supplies the trees, said firefighter John Mohlenhoff, who is the secretary of the department’s hook and ladder company.
“Prices have gone up a lot. We had to compromise on the types of trees we get, the sizes, everything,” said Mohlenhoff, who said the division needed to add Douglas firs to supplement the number of Fraser spruces.
10-30% How much more consumers should expect to pay for their tree compared to last year, experts say?
Consumers looking for both real and artificial Christmas trees this year should start shopping early and prepare to pay about 10% to 30% more than last year as fewer Christmas trees — and less selection — will be available, it said. industry experts.
“Some of the major retailers say they have about 43 percent of their inventory right now, when it should be closer to 70 percent this time of year,” said Jami Warner, executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association. representing the Christmas tree. shopkeepers.
Rising Christmas tree prices and declining tree species are the result of several factors, including shipments of artificial trees, most of which are imported from China, delays due to supply chain problems and a lack of truck drivers to make deliveries, industry experts said.
In addition, after the recession ended in 2009, struggling farmers planted fewer trees for several years.
8-10 years How long does it take for a tree to mature?
Demand for Christmas trees has risen in recent years, but it takes eight to 10 years for a tree to reach maturity, says Gary A. Chastagner, a plant pathologist and extension specialist at Washington State University.
“The Christmas tree industry is a very cyclical industry,” he said.
Part of the strong demand for Christmas trees is related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to months of closures of movie theaters, concert halls, sports stadiums and other places for consumers to spend their disposable income, industry experts said.
Unable to participate in leisure activities, consumers focused on decorating the hallways of their homes with Christmas trees and other holiday decorations in 2020.
That trend is expected to continue this holiday season, experts say.
Last year, the Huntington Fire Department sold trees ranging from $50 to $120, depending on size, Mohlenhoff said. For the first time in about a decade, prices were increased by $5 this year to help the department offset some of the increased prices, he said.
The department’s trees sold out within 48 hours of the start of sales on the first weekend of December last year, he said.
“Normally that’s a week-long sale. … It probably has a lot to do with COVID,” said Mohlenhoff, who is hoping for a similar outcome this year.
Darts Christmas Tree Farm in Southold, with eight acres for tree-growing, had its normal number of trees last year, but for the first time since the company was founded in 1971, no more mature trees sold, owner Ed Dart said. Even trees that were not yet fully grown were sold, he said.
“Last year they took trees that would be our market size this year, so that’s why we have fewer large trees than usual this year,” he said.
“I expect we’ll run out before the season is over.”
-Ed Dart, owner of Darts Christmas Tree Farm in Southold
Photo credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.
He expects strong demand during this year’s sales season, which kicks off Black Friday. “I expect we’ll run out before the season is over,” Dart said.
The word “shortage” isn’t accurate when describing the current Christmas tree market, said Doug Hundley, spokesperson for the National Christmas Tree Association, a Denver-based organization that represents Christmas tree growers.
A better description is ‘tight market’, he said.
Between 2000 and 2015, there were too many trees on the market, Hundley said.
“We had a surplus and there were hundreds of Christmas trees left in tree lots after Christmas… That’s over and that’s a good thing,” Hundley said.
There is a public perception of a shortage because farmers can’t respond quickly to the growing demand for trees, because of the time it takes for trees to reach maturity, said Travis Birdsell, a cooperative educator at North Carolina State University.
Birdsell partners with arborists in Ashe County, North Carolina, the nation’s second-highest tree-producing county. “We’re trying to balance this to really run a business and plan for the future,” he said.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, as of January 1, 2020, there were 2,795 Christmas tree nurseries and 118 million trees in those operations nationwide.
By Christmas 2020, 13.5 million trees are expected to be cut and sold, according to the USDA. The number is expected to rise to 13.9 million by this Christmas.
Costello’s Ace Hardware sells artificial trees at its 38 stores, including the 22 on Long Island, said Andy Pergament, category manager for the chain. In addition, it sells real trees in two stores – in Copiague and Bellmore.
“We’re seeing less product than usual for this time of year. Most growers have the same problem we all experience with aid and trucking,” said Pergament, adding that Costello’s prices have increased by 20 to 25%. this year.
Costello’s Christmas merchandise is normally in stores at the end of October. This year, supply chain problems will delay that until the end of November as the chain waits for a few shipping containers of artificial trees from China to arrive next week, said Pergament, noting that the chain expects to have enough trees to meet requirements. the customer’s requirements. demand.