TThe Huntington Fire Department has been selling 400 to 500 Christmas trees annually as a fundraiser for more than 25 years, but preparations for the sale this season were different.
The department had to pay higher prices to the wood farm in Pennsylvania, which supplies its trees, said firefighter John Mohlenhoff, who is the secretary of the department’s hook and ladder company.
“Prices have risen significantly. We have had to compromise on what types of trees we get, sizes, everything,” said Mohlenhoff, who said the department needed to add some Douglas fir to supplement the amount of Fraser spruces.
10-30% How much more should consumers expect to pay for their wood 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 around 10% to 30% more than last year because fewer Christmas trees – and smaller selections – will be available, industry experts said.
“Some of the big retailers say they have about 43 percent of their inventory right now, when it should be closer to 70 percent at this time of year,” said Jami Warner, spokeswoman for the American Christmas Tree Association, which represents Christmas tree retailers. .
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, delayed due to supply chain problems and lack of truck drivers to supply, 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 reach maturity
Demand for Christmas trees has increased in recent years, but it takes eight to 10 years for a tree to reach maturity, said 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 linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to months of closure of cinemas, concert venues, sports stadiums and other places where consumers could use their disposable income, industry experts said.
Unable to participate in leisure activities, consumers focused on decorating the halls of their homes with Christmas trees and other decor for the 2020 holiday season.
That trend is expected to continue this holiday season, experts said.
Last year, the Huntington Fire Department sold trees from $ 50 to $ 120, depending on size, Mohlenhoff said. For the first time in about a decade, prices were raised this year, by $ 5, to help the department offset the increased prices, he said.
The department’s trees were sold out within 48 hours of the start of sales in the first weekend of December last year, he said.
“Usually it’s a week-long sale … It probably has a lot to do with COVID,” said Mohlenhoff, who hopes for a similar result this year.
Dart Christmas Tree Farm in Southold, which has eight acres dedicated to growing trees, had its normal number of trees last year, but sold out of mature trees for the first time since the company was founded in 1971, said owner Ed Dart. Even trees that were not fully mature were sold, he said.
“Last year took the trees that would have been our market size this year, so that’s why we have fewer big trees this year than usual,” he said.
‘I expect us to 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 high demand during this year’s sales season, which starts Black Friday. “I expect us to run out before the season is over,” Dart said.
The term “shortage” is not accurate when describing the current Christmas tree market, said Doug Hundley, a spokesman 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 an abundance and there were hundreds of Christmas trees left at tree parties after Christmas … It’s over and it’s a good thing,” Hundley said.
There is a public perception of a shortage because farmers are unable to respond quickly to growing demand for trees because of the time it takes trees to reach maturity, said Travis Birdsell, a cooperative expansion agent at North Carolina State University.
Birdsell works with timber growers in Ashe County, North Carolina, which is the second highest timber-producing county in the country. “We’re trying to balance this to really run a business and plan for the future,” he said.
As of January 1, 2020, there were 2,795 Christmas tree cultivation operations and 118 million trees in those operations nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
By Christmas 2020, 13.5 million trees were expected to be felled and sold, according to the USDA. The number is expected to rise to 13.9 million this Christmas.
Costello’s Ace Hardware sells artificial trees in 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 see fewer products than usual at this time of year. Most of the growers have the same problem that we all experience in terms of help and trucking,” said Pergament, who said Costello’s prices have risen 20 to 25% this year.
Usually, Costello’s Christmas items are set up in stores at the end of October. This year, supply chain problems will delay it until the end of November, as the chain awaits a pair of shipping containers with artificial trees from China, which are expected to arrive next week, said Pergament, who said the chain expects to have enough trees to meet customers . demand.