The number, variety, and size of real Christmas trees may vary retailer by retailer
this season, but trees will still be available across the country.
HOWELL, Mich., Oct. 25, 2021 – The latest outlook from the Real Christmas Tree Board is that despite challenges this year, if shoppers are flexible they can expect to go home with a real Christmas tree.
The assessment is based on discussions in the first half of October with multiple growers in major production regions of the country. Taking into account their harvests and wholesale demand, the consensus is that although the supply has been tightened by a variety of things, including bad weather and supply chain issues, warnings of mass shortages are unwarranted.
The particular effects of a tightened supply will vary by location since any given supplier may have greater or fewer options to provide any given retailer. Some consumers may not find the exact tree that they’re looking for in the exact place they look for it, but there will be trees available within shopping distance.
The Western half of the U.S. is likely to feel the greatest strain, but even there the industry expects diligent shoppers to go home with a tree worthy of the season. In fact, growers in the Pacific Northwest, a key production region, are reporting fresh optimism based on improved weather conditions.
“We’ve had a good amount of rain here in the past few weeks and that has really helped us get our trees into the best possible condition we could have hoped for in this draught year,” said Bill Brawley, Oregon-based Christmas tree producer.
For the greatest selection and availability, shoppers should plan to find their tree in the first two weeks of the Christmas tree shopping season, which traditionally starts the day after Thanksgiving. Closer to Christmas some locations may close early, and selection may become reduced. This is a good year to try something new. Sizes and species will vary, and trends are changing. More “natural” looking trees are becoming popular and should be in good supply this year. It’s always a good idea to call ahead to see if the retailer is open and stocked. People can visit realchristmastreeboard.com to find a real Christmas tree retailer near them.
Supply crunches are a complex thing, affected by weather, transportation, long-term growing cycles, and economic ups and downs, but they’re offset by a diverse and decentralized industry.
Although Christmas trees are not typically impacted by drought, it can be devastating for seedlings. Widespread seedling losses during various droughts have contributed to smaller harvests in recent years. In late June, record-breaking temperatures in some Pacific Northwest Christmas-tree growing regions caused damage that reduced approximately 10% of the 2021 tree supply in the Northern Willamette Valley in Oregon and parts of Southwest Washington. That’s not good, but it’s not as bad as the 90% some media outlets have reported. The 90% figure refers to a single farm, not the region.
The real Christmas tree industry doesn’t rely on container ships to import product from overseas, as the artificial Christmas tree industry does, but it does rely on freight to move trees from major growing regions to retailers throughout the country. As with many industries, transportation has been challenging due to supply chain issues and labor shortages throughout the pandemic. Christmas tree producers benefit from long standing relationships with their truckers and trees are on the move but not always as quickly as the industry would like.
For further context, it takes eight to 10 years to grow a Christmas tree, depending on the variety and growing location. That means it’s possible to “borrow” from future supply for the current year when necessary, which the industry has had to do in some recent years. But doing so routinely can delay right-sizing the supply for the future.
Finally, during the 2008-2011 recession, many big growers, wholesalers and choose-and-cut growing operations went out of business or retired, triggering a drop in supply. In response, other large growers and new farmers began planting more trees following the recession and those will be available in the coming years, returning to more normal or even above average supply.
But here’s the good news: Those factors contributing to a tightened supply are offset by the fact that the industry is bigger than any one grower, region, or challenge. Real Christmas trees are grown in every state and many trees sold in the U.S. also come from Canada.
Without the context of that scale and scope, reports of any one challenge can be misleading. For example, the heat damage in the Pacific Northwest this summer was dramatic, serious, and deeply unfortunate for some individual growers. But it did not wipe out all the trees across the entire industry, or even all the trees in that one region. It was severe but limited in reach. Effects varied in intensity, from farm to farm, species to species, and even tree to tree. With the exception of Oregon, none of the growing regions experienced heat threats to their harvest-ready trees, which has helped stabilize the overall supply.
Bottom line: No single retailer, lot, nursery, or farm is reflective of the entire industry.
Know Your Sources
- Established in 2015, the Real Christmas Tree Board (RCTB) is a national research and promotion program whose mission is to share the benefits of fresh Christmas trees with consumers through promotion and public relations, while engaging in research to better serve our customers and growers. The USDA provides oversight of the RCTB to ensure transparency and accuracy in its communications. This press release was developed and distributed by the RCTB.
- The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) is the national trade association representing the Christmas tree industry. NCTA represents more than 700 active member farms, 29 state and regional associations, and more than 4,000 affiliated businesses that grow and sell Christmas trees or provide related supplies and services. The NCTA represents the Real Christmas Tree community with one voice to protect and advocate on the industry’s behalf.
- The American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA) is a 501(c)(3) corporation run by CEO Thomas Harman.1 Harman is the founder of Balsam Hill, a seller of artificial Christmas trees.2 The majority of artificial Christmas trees are made overseas.3