Anti-Artificial: Americans Want the Real Deal in 2020

Dec 22, 2020

All-natural Christmas trees are getting their time to shine in 2020.

Data points to a 29% uptick in natural Christmas tree sales this year according to feedback from farmers, retailers, and industry groups.

Didn’t see that coming. Demand is so intense that shortages are increasingly common across the country. After several decades of wonky supply and demand scenarios, Christmas tree growers are ending 2020 on a happy note.

And it all comes back to the 8-10 year planting window it takes to get the festive fir trees to harvest-ready maturity.

Rewind: In the 90’s, farmers over planted due to strong demand. But when that supply hit the market in the mid-2000’s, prices tanked and forced many farmers out of business.

Then the 2008 financial crisis hit. Farmers became leery of over-planting again, so less saplings were seeded. By 2016, prices had doubled as less trees were available from the 15,000 U.S. farms.

Next, enter 2020. Only a ‘Back to the Future’-like experience could tip off tree growers to the excitement a global pandemic would bring to their industry.

After months in hibernation and little danger of transferring COVID-19 in the fresh air, lots of Americans have been on the hunt for the perfect pine.

Zoom out: In a typical year, only 19% of Christmas-celebrating American households would purchase a fresh, live tree. Last year, volume hit about 26 million trees and $2 billion in sales. ⅔ of those were sold at a big-box retailer, local garden center, or non-profit hub.

But this year is different. Choose-and-cut farms are getting loads of traffic. And if you waited too long past early December, a Charlie Brown-esque tree might have awaited you in the picked-over scraps.

Bottom line: High traffic trends at pumpkin patches this fall had tree farmers hopeful for a solid season. And in classic Christmas-miracle style, their 2020 dreams were realized despite the pandemic. Now the hope is this re-sparked holiday tradition of picking a real, live Christmas tree continues for yuletides to come.