Waynesville, N.C is home to the century-old Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm. Every year they prepare for the holiday rush of people to get trees by setting aside 5,000 to meet customer demand. Most families select the Fraser fir, one of the higher-tiered and pricier tree types while taking photos with Santa and drinking hot cocoa from their cups.
The sale this year was set to run from November 17th until December 10th, but they faced a problem when the trees were gone by the end of Thanksgiving weekend. Almost 900 trees were cut down and taken home to dry before getting decorated on the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, alone.
Darren Nicholson, the assistant manager at Boyd Mountain, commented that “It’s not like buying plastic cups — you can’t just turn a tree out in a factory,” noting that it takes ten years before you can replace it. It’s going to be harder to find a tree this year, and when you do find one it’ll probably cost around ten percent more, thanks to the Great Recession at work.
Tree sellers warned that the financial crisis and market forces, along with the subsequent recovery, are making trees scarcer this year. The average price for a Christmas tree has been relatively stable for the past ten years with some dips, and spikes, but hovered around $40 until it spiked in 2016. The average price in 2008 for a tree was $36.50, but just last year this figure almost doubled to $74.70.
The shortage can be traced back to the 2008 recession. People bought less at the time due to the financial situation of the country, which tree growers properly responded to by cutting down fewer trees. This left trees up longer, but reduced space to plant new trees and a fewer-than-usual amount of seedlings.
Americans have recovered financially and are now wanting those spruces, pines, and firs as they reach the ideal height of seven or eight feet consumers look for. It’s not that consumers won’t be able to get a tree this year, says Doug Hundley of the National Christmas Tree Association, but they can expect a smaller selection, lack of bargains, and a higher price.
The price increase can also be tied to tree farmers abandoning the business. Christmas trees need to be shaped and sheared for ideal growth, treated for insects, and the grass around them needs to be maintained. Oregon, the top state for tree growers, has fallen from 699 growers in 2010 to 392 in 2017. Wildfires and drought have also had a devastating impact on tree farms, further driving up costs due to lost profits. The lack of trees is likely to be an issue until 2025 when the market stabilizes itself.
Some areas, such as those in New York, have an abundance of trees and will be shipping them to other states to fulfill demands. These farms stuck with their usual planting schedules instead of allowing the recession to impact it, ensuring that they are fully stocked with this year’s demand.