VERIFY: Will Christmas trees be pricier, tougher to find this year?

It could be tougher to find a Christmas tree this year (if you wait) and when you find one, you’ll likely pay more to bring it home to deck the halls.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, it all comes down to bad timing.

In 2007 the Great Recession began and Christmas tree sales slowed while prices dipped, said association spokesperson Doug Hundley.

In the years that followed, Christmas tree growers did not have the room nor the revenue to plant as many trees as they would have, if sales had been better.  

Since a Christmas tree takes about a decade to hit a height of seven to eight feet—the size that families most prefer to grace their living rooms—growers now don't have as many to cut and ship around the country as they have in past years

Oregon farms harvest the most trees in the United States while farmers in North Carolina, where the second-most trees are harvested, generally ship trees to states east of the Mississippi River, such as Florida.

David Gallagher, whose family has owned Gallagher’s Pumpkin’s and Christmas Trees in St. Petersburg for 30 years, said he receives the majority of his trees—Frasers and Nobles—from North Carolina and Oregon, respectively.

He “definitely” saw a cost increase this year—15 percent on the wholesale end—which equates to about 10-15 dollars per tree.

“This didn’t just happen overnight it’s has been building for several years,” he said, citing that last year he closed nine days before Christmas because of dwindling inventory, the earliest he’d ever shut down.

“It’s a grower problem.”

Gallagher said he had no problem securing his shipment, which he credits to his decades of working in the business with growers. But Gallagher admits he’ll have to pass some of the cost onto his customers who can expect to pay about 4-5 dollars more on average per tree. 

Supply isn't the only issue. Gallagher said he’s also faced higher shipping costs.

“We’ve been in business for 30 years and we’ve seen things like this happen before and this is the first time I’ve raised my prices in about 15 years,” he said.

On Al Keith’s family-owned tree lot in Dade City, he’s raising prices too.

Keith, who also sources much of his inventory from North Carolina, said he’s had to raise the average price per tree by 10-12 dollars.

But he, like Gallagher, say it doesn’t appear to be hurting business. If anything, talk of a shortage has helped.

“I’m loving the fact there’s a screaming shortage,” Keith said, adding he had just come off a “record” weekend selling more than 140 trees.

“It’s getting people to rush to the lots to pick one up.”

On the 15 acres of fields that Leslee Rose helps manage at Lazy Lay Acres Christmas Tree Farm in Dade City, she said their inventory is just fine.

The farm grows Southern Red Cedars, Carolina Sapphires and Sandpines. It’s one of about two dozen Christmas tree farms across Florida, according to the Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“We replant every year,” she said. “That didn’t really change during the recession.”

Prices haven’t appeared to change much either.

An average six foot tree will run you about 30 dollars, Rose said, with the price increasing by about 5 dollars for each additional foot. You just have to cut it yourself.

“Our customers haven’t really expressed concern about (the shortage) because they’re seeing that our fields are so full,” she said.

The farm does source some northern trees that are sold in their barn. Customers can expect to pay about 5-10 dollars more for those, Rose said.

For those looking to get the tree at a big box home improvement store, Lowe’s spokesperson Matt Michaels said the chain was not experiencing any shortages or cost increases from Christmas tree suppliers this year. 

USA TODAY contributed to this report.

 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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