When I was growing up, we had a family tradition of not putting up our Christmas tree until Christmas Eve. This meant that we could usually take our time in picking out the perfect Douglas Fir because it would just be sitting in a bucket in the shed until we were ready to bring it inside to decorate on the 24th. Even though we would wait until late in the season, we rarely had troubling finding our tree. However, forecasts are showing that may not be the case this year for those of us Christmas tree shoppers who wait until later in the season.
For anyone who has ever gone to a Christmas tree farm to chop down your tree, you may remember learning that it takes about 7 – 10 years for the trees to reach the ideal height for most homes. So working backwards, that means that this year’s crop was planted during the years of the Great Recession.
During the Recession fewer Christmas trees were sold as families were forced to budget during the holiday season. With fewer trees being sold, farmers planted less seeds to replace the previous year’s crop or, in some cases, were forced to leave the industry all together. As a result, there were not as many fully grown trees ready to be chopped down for the 2017 season. For consumers, this means that Christmas tree sellers are selling out of their supply faster than normal, with some locations selling out in the first weekend after Thanksgiving. While tree prices have been on the rise for years - with prices nearly doubling what they were 10 years ago - customers are seeing increased price for their trees this year because of the constraints on supply.
Often when disaster strikes we think about the short term ramifications on markets – a hurricane in the Gulf is going to lead to increased gas prices – but over time we tend to forget about how these events could impact us in the longer term. This year’s Christmas tree shortage is only one example of this and we will likely see the effects over the next few years as crop ages out of the Recession years. The wine industry may see a similar impact in coming years as vineyards in Northern California recover from the recent wildfires.
Rest assured that even though we'll have to get it earlier and it may cost more this year, we will still have a real tree at my house.