Christmas trees are harder to get and more expensive to buy this year, according to industry insiders. "We have never seen a shortage like this ever. Ever, ever, ever," says Donna Dorsey, owner of Goffle Brook Farm & Garden Center in Ridgewood, New Jersey, who's been in the industry for more than three decades.
While pricing may differ retailer to retailer, "consumers can expect both live and artificial Christmas trees to cost more this Christmas," says Jami Warner, executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association, a trade group for tree growers.
The average cost of a live Christmas tree is $78 this year, according to the American Christmas Tree Association. That's a huge increase from 2015, when the average cost of a live tree was just $31, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Artificial trees average $104, the American Christmas Tree Association reports. Faux tree retailers have had to raise their prices 20% to 30% this season, says Warner.
"This is not the year to find a tree last-minute, or to wait for a retailer sale," Warner adds. "It's possible that those sales won't occur, or that when they do, the inventory will be limited. Now's the time to buy your tree."
Christmas tree price increases are a result of extreme weather events in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest. On top of that, supply chain congestion in and out of ports, along with shipping container shortages, and inflation are making the problem worse, Warner says.
"The economic instability caused by Covid-19 and the impacts of extreme weather have affected all parts of the global and U.S. supply chain, and Christmas trees are no exception," she says. "These challenges mean that there will be fewer live and artificial Christmas trees available this year, and those that are available will cost more than before."
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Thankfully, Felicia Burns, manager at Stony Hill Farms in Chester, New Jersey, says her operation ordered inventory for this year before Christmas last year, which put it in a good spot. "We definitely have less than we normally do, but compared to other farms in the area we seem to have the most currently," Burns says.
Issues with artificial trees are related to supply chain shortages and delays. Most artificial Christmas trees are imported from China to the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Shipments from China continue to face widespread pandemic-fueled delays.
Part of the issue stems from the Great Recession in 2008. Many tree growers left the business, and since it can take 10 to 12 years to grow a large Christmas tree, "We're feeling that now," says Dorsey. "In 2008, when we had a recession, and the growers cut back on growing because they were nervous with what the future was going to be."
The current labor shortages don't help, either. "Aside from there not being as many farmers, the growers also can't get help cutting their trees," Dorsey says.
Despite these issues, both Goffle Brook Farm & Garden Center and Stony Hill Farms say they have plenty of inventory, for now. "While consumers may not be able to find a specific type of tree this year, they shouldn't let that stop them from celebrating the tradition of bringing home, decorating, and enjoying a Christmas tree," says Warner. "At the end of the day, there's really no such thing as a bad Christmas tree!"
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