Christmas tree buyers face low supplies and high prices

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A man shops for a Christmas tree at Crystal River Christmas Trees in Alameda, California on November 26, 2021. Extreme weather and supply chain disruptions have led to shortages and soaring prices of both real and artificial Christmas trees this year. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

AP

Even Christmas trees are not immune to shortages caused by the pandemic and the inflation plaguing the economy.

Severe weather and supply chain disruptions have reduced supplies of real and artificial trees this season. Industry officials said US shoppers should expect to have fewer choices and pay up to 30% more for both types at Christmas.

“It’s a double whammy — weather and supply chain issues are really holding the industry back,” said Jamie Warner, executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association, an industry trade group. “Farmers have been hit hard by floods, fires, smoke, drought and extreme weather conditions.”

Soaring temperatures and record-breaking wildfires in late June took a heavy toll on Christmas tree farms in Oregon and Washington, two of the largest growers in the country.

Warner couldn’t provide an estimate of how many trees there would be this year, but because it takes up to 10 years to grow, the crop loss will be felt for several seasons to come.

The shortage of truck drivers makes it more difficult and expensive to transport live trees from farms to shops and to cut down trees.

Warner’s Tip: “Shop early. If you see something you like, buy it.”

At Crystal River Christmas Trees, owner Dale Pine and his nephew Stacy Valenzuela struggled to get enough trees to sell at the Alameda treehouse. Several of its suppliers in Oregon lost trees in the three-digit heat wave.

“It looked bleak for a while,” Valenzuela said. “Every day you check the phone, ‘Hey, do you have anything?'” If she does, send her my way. So there has been a lot of work to put these trees on the ground this year.”

Valenzuela said Crystal River has had to raise prices this year due to higher costs for trees, labor and truck delivery.

Alameda resident Ian Stblosky came to Crystal River to buy a silvertip with his wife and two young children the day after Thanksgiving.

“We’re short on everything and of course we had to take the Christmas trees,” Steplowski said. “I definitely noticed that everything is a little more expensive this year already.”

Teri Schaffert heard about the lack of real trees this year, so she decided to buy an artificial tree for the first time. About a week before Thanksgiving, I went shopping at the Burlington showroom in Balsam Hill, which primarily sells their artificial trees online.

“I came early because I heard on the news that there wouldn’t be enough fresh Christmas trees,” said Schaffert, who lives in nearby San Mateo. Her husband is not happy with the change. “What else can we do? I have to prepare for the future because I love Christmas. I love decorating.”

Caroline Tuan, chief operating officer of Balsam Hill, said the artificial tree industry is struggling with its own supply problems as clogged ports and a shortage of truck drivers delay shipping and drive up costs. The company’s trees are about 20% more expensive this year and there is less variety.

“We have to bring our products from our factories (in China), and that was quite a challenge,” Tuan said. “It has all affected us, which means we have fewer trees to sell as an industry.”

Concerns about drought and drought prompted David Cruz and his wife to a Balsam Hill showroom to purchase their first artificial tree this year.

“In the grand scheme of climate change here in California, this is really the way to go,” said Cruz, who lives in Brentwood. “The faster everyone rides the artificial tree, the faster everyone can enjoy it.”

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