Planning to partake in the time-honored tradition of rockin' around the Christmas tree this holiday season?
Prepare your wallet, and get ready to fight for that fir.
Reports are rolling in from tree farmers and sellers across the country, and they all have a common, interconnected theme: Supply is down, and prices are up. New York's Newsday reported that customers will likely have to pay 10% to 30% more than usual for both live and fake Christmas trees in 2021.
"It’s one for the records," Neil Courtney, manager of the Buffalo Valley Produce Auction in Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania, told PennLive.com. "You can’t find trees to buy anywhere. I knew it was coming, but it is more serious than we thought."
Why are Christmas trees so expensive right now?
The Christmas tree situation is the perfect storm of factors.
The first is inflation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported earlier this month that prices are generally up 6.2% from last October as the economy recovers from lockdowns and government stimulus packages tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
The second reason for the Christmas tree shortage dates further back. In the wake of the 2007-2009 Great Recession, farmers slashed the number of trees they planted. Because Christmas trees take a decade or so to mature, we're still feeling the effects now.
Third, farmers are coping with climate change, which led to wildfires and droughts this summer in Oregon, a major supplier of Christmas trees for West Coasters.
Oh, and that's all on top of the ongoing supply chain crisis and labor shortage snarling shipping times for the nearly 30 million real Christmas trees Americans purchase every year.
"Truck drivers are just scarce," Chris Saraceni, the owner of Savvy’s Christmas Trees in Plano, Texas, told WFAA. "There’s a delay in getting what you need on time."
How much do Christmas trees cost?
According to American Christmas Tree Association, or ACTA, the average live tree costs $78 in 2021. The average artificial tree costs $104. (Fake trees, however, give way to better cost savings over time.)
“Manpower, trucking, transportation, all of those things factor in. It just keeps going up and going up,” Kevin Pressley, the co-owner of Simpson’s Produce in Charlotte, North Carolina, told WBTV. "Trees that you could usually buy for $75 — just to give an example — that tree will cost you 100-plus [dollars] this year."
How to get a Christmas tree in 2021
Christmas tree shortages are an annual concern, given their central place in family holiday traditions. But "we’ve never run out of Christmas trees in the U.S.,” Tim O’Connor, the executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association, told HuffPost in October.
To avoid any hiccups, ACTA recommends would-be tree buyers head to stores — or forests, or parking lot tents — early. Shop smartly: The best live Christmas trees still smell sappy and don't have pests. Make sure to ask for at least a half-inch of wood to be sawed off the trunk before taking it home for maximum longevity.
If you're shopping online, read reviews and consider how much storage space your fake tree will take up. And buy soon.
"This is not the year to find a tree last-minute, or to wait for a retailer sale. It’s possible that those sales won’t occur, or that when they do, the inventory will be limited," ACTA says. "Plan ahead, and buy early."