President Donald Trump made saving Christmas – and making people say “Merry Christmas” – part of his platform during the 2016 election.
He’s tried to make good by incorporating Christmas trees on the stage during rallies this month and he tweeted video of his remarks at the National Christmas Tree lighting and his wish to America and the world for “a very, merry Christmas.”
But his year’s celebration comes with a cold hard catch for American consumers: Christmas trees are more expensive, and for the second year in a row. For a President who consistently alleges there is “fake news” out to get him, it is beyond debate that there has been a rise in fake trees to celebrate the holiday he pledged to save.
“Real” trees, especially, are going up in price and are less popular than decades ago. More consumers are choosing fake trees, which are often imported from China, or skipping the tree altogether.
The Great Recession is to blame for the price increase. Christmas tree farms often cut down trees only as they are sold. Because the farms sold fewer trees during the recession, they had less space in which to plant new ones. Nearly 10 years later, the trees that should have been planted then are not around to be cut in a better sales climate. So prices are up, and farms are still recovering.
“We are expecting there to be a continued tight market next year as well,” said Doug Hundley, seasonal spokesman for the National Christmas Tree Association. “We think it will be over in a couple more years.”
Prices for real trees are up 5% to 10% this year, just like last year, when comparing the same-sized tree. However, people are buying bigger trees and more wreaths and accessories from farms, Hundley said. This is partly why the data shows an average person paying more for a tree. The data on tree costs is based on a survey the National Christmas Tree Association puts together every year, which asks consumers how much they spent on Christmas trees and which kinds they bought.
Reports are already trickling in about “real” Christmas tree shortages, especially in smaller lots like churches and schools.
More people are buying artificial trees now, too. These trees often come from China, where “Christmas villages” manufacture the world’s trees and decorations.
This is happening in part because the demand for real trees has declined in recent decades and the supply has also gone down. Data from the US Department of Agriculture showed that 1.9 million fewer trees were planted in 2015 compared with 2010, and the number of active growers is declining. This trend is distinctly present in Rust Belt states like Wisconsin, where fewer Christmas trees are being planted.
Nonetheless, Hundley urges calm. “Everyone who wants a real tree should be able to find one,” he said.