Expect pricier, but available, Christmas trees in 2021, trade groups say

Despite reports of a pending Christmas tree shortage for the 2021 holiday season, leading industry trade groups said consumers need only remember two things: plan ahead and save up.

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Although finding the perfect tree should not be a problem, the American Christmas Tree Association, which represents sellers of artificial trees, warned consumers that 2021 is not the year to procrastinate on decking those halls or waiting for retailer sales to do so.

“It’s possible that those sales won’t occur, or that when they do, the inventory will be limited,” the association stated on its website, urging people to find their trees early, both live and artificial.

Meanwhile, supply chain disruptions, fueled by but not limited to COVID-19 shipping backlogs, mean some U.S. retailers are raising prices for holiday decor by as much as 25% to “keep pace with skyrocketing shipping costs,” while warning that congested overseas channels have “tied up distribution from ports in China to freight yards in Chicago,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

The bottom line is that certain trees could sell out early because reinforcements are not guaranteed, the Journal reported.

Prices of both live and artificial trees have actually increased steadily for the past six years, the ACTA stated, citing a 2021 U.S. Department of Agriculture report that revealed live tree costs have nearly doubled since 2015 and artificial trees are on track to cost as much as 30% more in 2021 than they did one year ago.

“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,” the association stated, attributing the cost spikes to extreme weather events in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest, as well as supply chain congestion and shipping container shortages.

Mac Harman, chief executive officer of Redwood City, California-based Balsam Hill, which sells medium- to high-end trees online and in stores, told the Journal that he expects the company’s U.S. inbound shipping costs to quadruple this year compared with 2020, reaching $45 million to $50 million on projected sales of $200 million to $250 million.

According to the Journal, 2020 live tree supplies were tight due in large part to light plantings of saplings - which can take as long as a decade to grow to market size - since the 2008 financial crisis, but the National Christmas Tree Association, which represents tree growers, said availability for 2021 should not be an issue.

“We’ve never run out of Christmas trees,” Tim O’Connor, the association’s executive director, told the newspaper.

According to the ACTA, an estimated 85% of American homes that had a tree last Christmas used an artificial one, representing an increase from 46% in 1992, and fueling a $1 billion to $2 billion annual industry.

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