Christmas tree sales light up across Tennessee Valley

Christmas tree sales light up across Tennessee Valley

December 17th, 2013 by Shelly Bradbury in Business Around the Region

Haley Milos cuts string binding a Christmas tree Monday at Tom Sawyer Christmas Tree Farm's sales tent on Cherokee Boulevard. Live Christmas tree sales have risen 11 percent from last year's sales.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

BY THE NUMBERS

2012 Christmas tree sales:

• 24.5 million real trees sold

• 10.9 million fake trees sold

• $40.30 - Average spent per real tree by survey respondents

• $72.50 - Average spent per fake tree by survey respondents

Source: National Christmas Tree Association consumer surveys

Crisler Torrence places a bound Christmas tree into position in a row Monday at Tom Sawyer Christmas Tree Farm's sales tent on Cherokee Boulevard. Live Christmas tree sales have risen 11 percent from last year's sales.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

Peyton West cut his first Christmas tree down when he was three years old, or so the family lore goes. He chopped it down in October and by the time Christmas rolled around, his mom was ready for a nice, new Christmas tree.

But dad wouldn't have it.

"He said 'Peyton cut that down so we'll use it,'" said Jessica West, Peyton's wife. Now that the couple have their own three-year-old and 18-month-old kids, they weren't even going to get a Christmas tree this year.

"As with anything if you have kids, if you don't want them on it all the time it's best to just not get it," Peyton said, laughing.

But the holiday spirit won out Monday and the family bought a $55, pre-wrapped live tree from Tom Sawyer Christmas Tree Farm's lot on Cherokee Blvd.

"We figure it will last a week," Peyton quipped.

Christmas tree sales are up across the Tennessee Valley this year, tree peddlers report. At Tom Sawyer, lot manager Haley Mills said she's already sold about 800 trees.

"It's a good year," she said. "We've sold more than last year."

Nationally, sales are up about 7 percent over last year, according to international market research firm ISI Group. About 24.5 million Christmas trees were sold in 2012, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, compared to about 30.8 million in 2011.

"I think for sure people are more in the spirit this year," said Doug Matheny, tree and shrub manager at The Barn Nursery. "They've got a little more confidence in the economy, the stock market did better this year, people are getting savings back to where they should be and are a little looser with their money."

Part of the higher demand may also be because of the condensed selling season -- Thanksgiving was one week later this year, which means Christmas tree sellers have one less week to sell. But the schedule seems to be pushing consumers to buy sooner.

"There are six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year," said Rick Dungey, National Christmas Tree Association spokesman. "It's like, 'Wow, let's hurry up and get ready for Christmas."

Another tree trend this year is tailored options, Dungey said, which could also be upping sales. More retailers are offering a wider variety of trees in order to appeal to a wider market.

"More sizes, more varieties, more shapes," Dungey said. "If you live on the 14th floor of an old condo building in an urban setting, driving to a lot and getting an 8-foot-tall, 50 pound tree doesn't meet your needs. The industry is starting to figure out that there are people out there who'd get a tree if you put more variety in front of them."

A few weekends of rain have hampered sales a bit in Chattanooga, said Kevin Wheeler, owner of Wheeler's Choose and Cut Christmas Tree Farm. But not much, he added. He's already sold 150 more trees than last year.

"For the most part people still came out," he said. "We had people out there in the rain with umbrellas."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.