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Inflation spikes Christmas tree prices

Christmas trees displayed for sale. A sign in front reads the price "$74.99"
Christmas trees are displayed for sale at a Chesterfield County nursery. (Photo: Ian Stewart/VPM News)

Nate Duman is wheeling his eight-month-old son on a metal cart through rows of Christmas trees at the Great Big Greenhouse in Chesterfield County. Amanda, his wife, is carrying their four-year-old son.  

They’ve stopped in front of a group of fir trees. 

“I so want it to be tall, like seven or eight feet, just a little skinnier than normal,” Amanda said. 

They haven’t yet checked out the prices. 

“I don’t know how much a Christmas tree is going to cost us this year,” she said. 

“I’m sure it’s not cheaper than last year,” replied Nate. 

He’s right, according to Tim O’Connor of the National Christmas Tree Association, a national trade association whose members include Christmas tree growers and members from the supply chain that support the industry. It’s also the group that helps pick the tree for the White House. 

“[Tree growers and farmers] experienced higher costs, like everyone else has,” O’Connor said. “The price of fuel has gone up 70%. [The] price of fertilizer has gone up 300%. Labor costs, equipment costs, virtually everything a grower buys has gone up. So, it simply costs them more to do business. And so, they will be increasing prices.” 

However, O’Connor said even with higher costs, tree retailers — especially locally owned ones — won’t raise prices too high because they’re competing with big box stores. 

“They are in a very competitive marketplace,” O’Connor said. “There are some really big buyers in that wholesale sector — the Lowe's, Home Depot, Kohl's, Walmart, those kinds of companies.” 

O’Connor said those stores have a strong relationship with growers and negotiate prices directly with them. 

“The growers can't just say, ‘Well, this year I need another 20 bucks a tree,’ and they go, ‘OK, we'll pay it,’” O’Connor said. “It doesn't work that way.” 

He said his group doesn’t set prices — each individual retailer does. But he estimated that tree prices would rise between 5 and 10% this season. 

Marsha Gray — who represents the Real Christmas Tree Board, a USDA promotional program — said there’s no need for shoppers to worry about sudden shortages. 

“This is essentially a year without surprises,” Gray said. “The real Christmas tree industry met demand last year and it will meet demand this year. In fact, our annual consumer survey showed that 86% of real Christmas tree buyers said they had no problems finding a place nearby to buy their tree last year. And 87% told us they found the tree they wanted at the first place they looked.” 

For tree grower Phil Woods, of Woods Tree Farm in Amelia, this weekend saw brisk sales of his cut-your-own trees. He said trees cost about 11% more at his farm this year. 

“Our tree sales on opening weekend 2022 were comparable to our opening weekend last year. We did 208 trees last year and 205 this year,” said Woods, who added that he might have sold more had it not been for the rain. 

For Bill Morris and his family, the higher cost means they’ll be cutting back on gifts. 

“It’s definitely not going to be a huge Christmas year, that’s for sure,” he said. 

Both Bill and Tina, his wife, work in the real estate industry and said business has slowed recently. Because of that, they’ll watch their holiday spending more closely. 

“We’re just trying to be careful,” Tina said. “It’ll be a less expensive Christmas for us.” 

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Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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