Chain Reaction: Why Christmas trees are in short supply, and more expensive than ever before

Chain Reaction: Why Christmas trees are in short supply, and more expensive than ever before

A shortage of Christmas trees, both real and fake, may make it harder to get your home in the festive spirit this year.

According to the American Christmas Tree Association, Christmas trees are more expensive and harder to find than ever before.

labor shortages, high demand, extreme weather and a lack of trees planted during the recession is all combining for what experts are calling a perfect storm.

“Well I think you’ve got to go back to 2007, 8, 9 of the recession,” Tom McClure said, the owner of McClure’s Christmas Tree Farm in LaPorte. “A lot of farmer’s all over the country backed off a little bit and didn’t plant enough. Then we got hit with the drought, and even we lost 500 trees on the hill here.”

Christmas tree shortages are actually nothing new to farmers like McClure. It can take as many as 15 years to grow your typical 7-foot-tall Christmas tree. But couple the problem from the early 2000s with a shipping crisis fueled by COVID, it’s a double whammy.

McClure says things have never been as bad as they are right now. Last year, he only stayed open for six days.

“We had never opened up and shut down in 6 days. It was like a vacuum cleaner went through.”

This year, he’s not even confident he can stay open that long.  

McClure is bringing in a couple hundred pre-cut trees to keep up with the demand but he had to call over a hundred shops just to get his hands on a few extra trees.

“We started in January, started calling around, because we knew we were in trouble with supply.”

Now, because of inflation, you’ll also likely end up paying more for your tree. At McClure’s shop, prices are going up 20 percent.

“Prices went up a little bit and hopefully after we open the fields back up and move back into normal years they can come back down. But everything skyrocketed, wholesale prices skyrocketed, transportation skyrocketed, everything we do skyrocketed,” McClure said.

The shortage isn’t just affecting live trees either. The same is true for artificial trees this year. Jennifer Petersen at Balsam Hill says you should plan to spend Thanksgiving weekend shopping for one.

“The past two years have brought challenges that none of us ever expected. It’s nothing like we’ve ever seen before,” Petersen said.

If you’re shopping online for a tree, you should be ordering one right as soon as possible, well before Thanksgiving.

“There’s not as many trees that are the right size for people this year. While there will be enough real trees and artificial trees for everybody, if there’s a very specific size or variety you’re wanting, you’re going to want to get it early. You might not get that 9-foot tree you want if you wait.”

If you’re set on a live Christmas tree, McClure says your best bet is to go shopping now.

“I would come early, yes. I don’t know what’s going to happen! The first couple of weekends we should have enough but after that it starts to get dicey,” McClure said.

McClure’s Christmas Tree Farm opens for the season November 20 at 9:30 a.m. You can find them in LaPorte on 4677 N 525 W.

You can pick your own tree, get it cut and tied to your car, while supplies last.

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