Subscribe to INT Podcast
|February 21, 2018|
Recession’s Christmas trees fetch higher prices
For several years beginning in 2007, cash-strapped families bought fewer trees, meaning Christmas tree farmers brought in less revenue and planted fewer trees.
The number of growers in the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association dropped from 524 members in 2009 to 275 members this year.
And since Christmas trees grow about a foot a year, the smaller crop of recession-era trees are just now hitting tree lots throughout the state, according to the Orange County Register.
“It is truly a shortage,” said Shelly Holloway, whose family runs Honey Bear Trees in San Mateo and Redwood City.
Honey Bear usually gets its trees from Oregon and Washington, but this year it was forced to look as far away as Wisconsin.
“It’s definitely more difficult to get the Noble firs, and it has raised the wholesale price for us,” she said.
All 50 states grow Christmas trees, but Oregon is the top producer. And, this year, the Beaver State is facing an especially short supply, a trend that’s touching tree sellers as far south as Southern California.
Snowy Pines on Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach is trying to stay competitive, price-wise, but the shortage means the lot is getting a fraction of its usual annual supply. The lot’s signature offering — Silvertip pines — are down 70 percent this year. As a result, prices are up about 10 percent, said Claudia Thacker, who co-owns Snowy Pines with her husband.
“It has impacted everybody,” Thacker said. “We’re down a bit.”
Some customers, like Mick Thomas of Seal Beach, noticed the price jump but are willing to pay more for a top notch tree.
“They are getting more expensive,” Thomas said. “But the traditions run deeper than the wallet.”
Lyra Marble, who owns Mr. Green Trees in Los Angeles, said she’s raised prices by up to $10, or about 8 percent. But, in some ways, the shortage is helping.
“We are getting calls from customers from 20 years ago… who can’t find trees,” Marble said. “One of my farmers shorted me 300 trees at the last minute. They didn’t put them on the truck because he just found he didn’t have them.”
She doesn’t think conditions will improve next season.
“It will probably be worse next year,” Marble said. “I expect prices to go up considerably.”
But the Great Recession hangover isn’t the industry’s only challenge. Sarah Macy, who organizes tree sales for St. Lawrence Academy in Northern California, tried to purchase Grand firs from a farmer in Oregon, but was told there was no inventory because a heat wave had “fried the trees.”
Some farms were also hit by the five-year drought that ended last winter. The lack of water weakened the trees and stunted their growth.
Story Date: December 24, 2017