Thanksgiving dinner may not yet be on the table, but Christmas tree sellers are already preparing folks for the next big holiday with fresh-cut fir and pine trees for the 25 million or more Americans who buy real evergreen trees every year to decorate their homes and businesses for the holidays.
With supplies uncertain in some parts of the country for both real and artificial trees amid the pandemic supply interruptions this year, consumers may opt to buy earlier than usual to make sure they get their trees. But those setting up Christmas tree lots in Chattanooga say they are charging similar prices to last year — typically about $15 a foot for a real Fraser fir — and they are ready for the busy buying season that usually starts this week and continues through the first couple of weeks into December.
John Weaver, who family has been growing Christmas trees in on the family's 180-acre farm in North Carolina since 1967, opened his Chattanooga retail tree lot last week on Signal Mountain Road where he has been selling his evergreen trees for 36 years. Over the past decade or so, Weaver also uses his lot to sell pumpkins in the fall.
"It's probably going to be quick season this year," said Weaver, who sells more than 2,800 trees at its retail lot a year and also has wholesale tree sales to other retailers. "We will run out of trees at some point. We have plenty of trees and my goal is to make it at least two weeks into December."
The Tom Sawyer Christmas Tree Farm and Elf Village opened its retail shop at 600 Manufacturers Road on Friday. But the North Carolina farm that raises the trees in Glenville, North Carolina is not opening for sales at the farm this year.
"As much as we want to be open for families to come enjoy the farm and choose and cut their trees, it just isn't feasible," Tom and Myra Sawyer said in an announcement on their website. "With the shortages we have faced over the last few years and the increased sales we saw last year, there is a huge shortage of our most sought-after tree sizes. We would not be able to ensure the majority of people would leave here with the perfect tree. So in order to make sure that in years to come we are able to make sure you do, we have had to make the difficult decision to close for this season."
The typical 6 to 8 foot Christmas tree takes five to seven years to grow and larger trees take even longer. During the Great Recession in 2009-2010, many Christmas tree farmers gave up their business and fewer trees were planted that would now mature into larger 12- to 15-foot trees.
Haley Milos, the tree lot manager for Tom Sawyer Farms retail outlet in Chattanooga who has worked selling the Christmas trees for each of the past 12 years, said she enjoys working with families getting ready to celebrate the Christmas holidays.
"We have a lot of repeat business and we've made a lot of friends through the years," she said. "We haven't raised our prices in the past three of our years and we aren't really changing our prices this year."
Milos suggests those wanting larger trees to shop early as those are likely to be more limited in comparison with the demand.
"There are definitely not as many tree lots in town as there used to be," she said.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or 423-757-6340.
Christmas tree facts
* 25 million to 30 million real Christmas trees are bought every year, but the vast majority of Americans reuse artificial Christmas trees
* The best-selling species of real treesare Frasir Fir, Noble fir and Douglas fir, followed by Balsam fir and Scotch pine.
* The top-selling growing states for Christmas trees are Oregon (8.5 million), North Carolina, (5.4 million) and Michigan (1.8 million). Trees are grown in 47 U.S. states.
* An average of 60 to 70 million Christmas tree seedlings are planted yearly.
* The average age of real tree customers in 2020 was 38; four years younger than the average age of real tree buyers in 2019.
Source: Christmas Tree Association
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