You get the point. Every year, someone warns you better hurry out to the nearest tree lot or Home Depot because it’s supposedly going to be hard to find something to put those Christmas presents under. To figure out what’s behind this never-ending tree supply issue, we turned to the experts at the National Christmas Tree Association.
Doug Hundley, a spokesperson for the trade group, set the record straight: “The shortage talk has been going on for the fifth year now. And those of us at the NCTA have tried to put water on that fire, but it just doesn’t work.”
That’s right, there is no nationwide Christmas tree shortage, Hundley said. So why does everyone keep saying there is? It’s because between 1995 and 2015, there was actually an oversupply of trees, Hundley said.
“People were very accustomed to seeing hundreds of trees on tree lots all the way through Christmas Eve and even the week of Christmas. That’s not a good sign for us of course,” he explained. “It wasn’t that demand was down, we had just planted a lot of trees.”
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The overabundance of Christmas trees meant farmers couldn’t raise prices. That made profit margins slim, so Hundley said many family-run operations were shutting down. Then the Great Recession hit and many cash-strapped farmers decided to plant fewer seedlings.
Christmas trees take at least seven or eight years to grow before they can even be sold as a young tree, Hundley said. That’s why people started to feel the effects of the 2008-09 recession a few years ago.
Hundley admitted there are fewer trees in Christmas tree lots than there were 20 years ago, but said that’s a good thing. There’s less waste as supply better matches up with demand.
“There has been a change in the supply of real trees the last five years, but we do not characterize it as a shortage because we don’t believe that any community is going without real trees to choose from or that anybody is going without a real tree if that’s what they want.”
While a tighter supply has been a better thing for growers, Hundley admitted it means rising costs for consumers – something he said was “long overdue” after about 20 years of stagnant prices. In 2014, the NCTA logged the average price of a Christmas tree around $60. Now, Hundley said he wouldn’t be surprised if it’s somewhere around $90. That number varies greatly depending on where you live, he said.