Have You Noticed That Real Christmas Tree Prices Are Higher? You Can Thank The 2008 Recession For That

Sales of artificial Christmas trees are challenging those of fresh ones, likely due to the high cost of real trees.

a christmas tree with a price tag
napocska / Shutterstock

Sales of artificial Christmas trees are challenging those of fresh ones, likely due to the high cost of real trees.

If you’ve suffered from sticker shock while trying to purchase a fresh, real Christmas tree this season, you’re not alone: prices of real Christmas trees are, in fact, up this year, CNBC reports. And you can thank the 2008 recession for that.

In fact, the price of fresh Christmas trees has been trending upward for a couple of years ago. In 2017, the average price of a real Christmas tree, based on a survey of a few dozen growers, was $75. Expect 2018 prices to be five to 10 percent higher, according to National Christmas Tree Association spokesman Doug Hundley.

And it all goes back to the 2008 recession.

It’s 2018, Why Does The 2008 Recession Matter?

Several reasons, actually, and they all have to do with how Christmas trees go.

Christmas trees, like corn, soybeans, cotton, and pigs, are agricultural products and have a growth cycle. From seedling to mature tree ready for your living room, the process takes about seven to ten years, give or take. And back in the hearty days of 2008, the USA was in the grips of the Great Recession. That meant, among other things, that Christmas tree farmers had less money to invest in planting seedlings. You are seeing the result of that shortage now when fewer mature trees are up for sale.

And The Old Bugaboo Climate Change

There are other, indirect reasons for the price increase as well. Dry conditions out West, possibly spurned by climate change, have made it harder to profitably grow crops of Christmas trees in Western states like California, Washington, and Oregon. What’s more, Christmas trees are considered a luxury item, at least in the agriculture industry, which means that farmers in hard times are more likely to put their efforts into necessary crops, like food.

Looking Towards The Future

The Christmas tree industry runs according to its own rhythms, as does the economy, and they don’t always match up. However, Hundley thinks – hopes – that supply, demand, and consumer purchasing power have evened out, and that there will be a proper supply of fresh Christmas trees, priced affordably for the consumer yet profitably for the farmer, to meet demand, for years to come.

The Role Of Artificial Trees

Of course, you could always just by a fake Christmas tree. And in fact, Americans are buying far more artificial Christmas trees than the real-tree industry would like. In 2017, Americans purchased 21.7 million real Christmas trees, as opposed to 21.1 million artificial trees that year.

But you may have already seen the problem: artificial trees last five to 10 years, vs. just one for a real one. That means that whoever buys an artificial tree is out of the market for the next few years at least, unless they change their minds and go back to real ones.

Not for nothing, the price of artificial is rising as well, to an average of $107 per tree, up from an average of $98.70 in 2016.