Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston

‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

Canadians planning to buy a live Christmas tree this season should start shopping now and expect to pay more, the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association says.

Farmers anticipate 2020 will be a record sales year. Association head Larry Downey says it’s simple supply and demand: a shortage of trees coupled with a greater appetite from people hoping to liven up their living spaces amid widespread stay-at-home orders.

“Personally, we don’t see COVID affecting us,” says Downey, whose family farm in Hatley, Que. sells up to 30,000 Christmas trees each year.

Most wholesale farmers Downey has spoken this year with have already reached sales records, he added, with much of the demand coming from vendors in the United States. Retailers typically place their orders for trees as early as June, Downey says.

The Christmas tree market is still feeling the effects of the Great Recession, which put many U.S. growers out of business and led others to reduce planting. Since saplings take eight to 10 years to reach the size of a typical Christmas tree, the effects of the lower supply have only recently emerged.

In turn, the shortage has pushed prices upward. Downey says Christmas trees are retailing for about $5 more this year, continuing a trend that has been ongoing for several years. The average price of a tree rose 123 per cent to US$78 in 2018 from US$35 in 2013, according to the U.S. National Christmas Tree Association.

Prices are on the rise in Canada as well. Stephane Bernier, who runs Plantation Bernier in Lac-Brome, Que., and Bronwyn Harper, who co-owns the Hillcrest Tree Farm near Ottawa, both say they have raised prices for Christmas trees this year.

On top of the shortage, tree sellers say they are expecting strong demand from consumers looking for an outdoor, physically distanced activity and who want to add some holiday cheer to their homes, where people are spending more time amid a second wave of Covid-19 cases. The pandemic has already led to some greater-than-expected spending in the home improvement market, a trend that could bode well for Christmas tree sales.

Some tree varieties such as Fraser firs, prized for their pleasant fragrance and excellent needle retention, are even more sought after. Harper says she is selling Fraser firs for around $85 — or $20 more than last year — after her supplier raised prices. (Fraser firs can’t grow on her property because of the terrain, Harper says.)

READ MORE: Christmas will be different even if Santa is ‘probably’ immune to COVID, says B.C. top doctor

The anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some retailers to purchase more trees wholesale.

Phil Quinn, the co-owner of Quinn Farm near Montreal, says he had to buy additional trees from wholesalers to sell at his farm since he didn’t grow enough on his own property to meet the demand he expects this year. And Harper says she’s received many calls from people looking for wholesale trees, although she only sells to retail customers.

“Everyone wants a tree and they want it now,” says Quinn, who expects to be sold out of trees by the second week of December.

But while demand for trees is expected to be strong, the pandemic has created its own set of challenges for tree vendors. Most sellers will not be able to offering the same set of attractions this year, with physical distancing requirements forcing farms to scrap additional draws such as wagon rides and fire pits.

Harper says her biggest challenge this year will be developing clear distancing guidelines for people picking up trees. The farm’s owners won’t allow people to bring their dogs, for example, nor will they offer horse-drawn sleigh or wagon rides. Rather than serving hot apple cider, Hillcrest Tree Farm will be giving people treats to take away when they leave.

“What might have been a one-hour visit will be a shorter visit this year,” Harper says.

Similarly, Serge Lapointe, the owner of Plantation JLS in Sainte-Angele-de-Monnoir, Que., says his farm won’t have anywhere for Christmas tree buyers to congregate this year, unlike in previous years when it offered visitors rides and the chance to take a photo with Santa Claus.

One aspect of the Christmas tree market to watch this year will be how lockdown orders affect how people buy trees, including whether they go in person to pick them up or order them online, says Paul Quinn (no relation to Phil Quinn), an analyst at RBC Dominion Securities who studies Christmas tree sales from year to year.

Retail tree vendors could face some competition from large online players: On their websites, Home Depot and Walmart both list natural Fraser Fir trees for sale, available for delivery before Christmas. A search on Amazon’s website revealed no results for natural Christmas trees, although the company offers a variety of artificial trees for sale.

But Phil Quinn says people are looking to take advantage of the chance to pick out their own tree in person, noting his farm is seeing greater interest in its choose-and-cut option, even with Quebec at its highest COVID-19 alert level.

“People are just asking for some kind of normalcy,” Quinn says.

Jon Victor, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

ChristmasChristmas treeCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveres to Canada are being delayed because of complications at their European distribution facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Delays of Pfizer vaccine delivery to impact Alberta’s vaccination plans

Alberta has administered 74,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far

(Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Sentencing delayed in the stabbing death of Samantha Sharpe, of Sunchild First Nation. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw
Alberta eases some COVID-19 restrictions

Salons, barbershops and other personal and wellness services will be open by appointment only

Lesser Slave Lake UCP MLA Pat Rehn. (Facebook)
Kenney kicks Pat Rehn out of UCP caucus after municipal complaints

Rehn had been criticized by municipal leaders in his constituency

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

(Via the Canadian Press)
Alberta monolith comes with message to save eastern slopes of Rocky Mountains

‘They deserve our attention. They warrant our protection. They are under threat’

blessing
Bentley Blessing Pantry continues to faithfully serve the community

‘We just wanted to make everyone aware that we are still here to serve you throughout this coming year.’

A Suncor logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 2, 2019. A worker is missing after a dozer broke through ice on an inactive Suncor tailings pond in northern Alberta.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Worker missing after dozer breaks through frozen tailings pond in northern Alberta

The worker was an employee of Christina River Construction

File Photo
‘You took away some real joy,’ Sylvan Lake Winter Village turned off after vandalism

Sometime during the night of Jan, 12 the light display at the pier was vandalized and damaged

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID clarity: Feds say 42-day gap for 2-dose vaccines OK as provinces race to immunity

‘Realities on the ground’ means that provinces, territories will have difficult choices to make

(Pixabay photo)
Alberta surgeon who hung a noose in a hospital found guilty of unprofessional conduct

College of Physicians and Surgeons says sanctions will be determined at a later hearing

Most Read