What to expect when buying a Christmas tree this holiday season

(NEW YORK) — With the traditional start of Christmas tree shopping about one week away, growers and retailers are telling customers to ready themselves for higher prices this year.

Tim O’Connor, the executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association, which supplies the Christmas tree to the White House and the vice president’s residence every year and represents 38 state and regional Christmas tree grower associations, said anyone interested in fresh trees should head out to the farm lot sooner than later.

“If you want to shop the Christmas tree farm, you really have to go early,” O’Connor told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “They’re popular and they will sell out. They have whatever trees they have available for that season and then they’re done. And they have been selling out every year early.”

The American Christmas Tree Association, whose members are Christmas tree manufacturers and retailers, is also encouraging shoppers to buy early as prices will rise as Christmas nears.

“Because inflation impacts absolutely everything, the industry is seeing increases in shipping costs, fertilizer, trucking, everything you can possibly think of, whether it be real or artificial trees. So I think consumers can expect to see anywhere from 5% to 20% increases across the board on artificial and live Christmas trees this year,” American Christmas Tree Association executive director Jami Warner told GMA.

Warner also said that shoppers may also see fewer tree options this holiday season.

“People are used to abundance and choice — and again, the choices will be limited but choose the tree that fits your lifestyle the best, be it real or artificial,” she said.

Inflation isn’t the only major issue affecting the Christmas tree industry this season. In some parts of the country, shoppers may notice there are fewer fresh trees due to drought conditions and climate change.

At Kadee Farm in Greenville, Texas, a town about 35 miles northeast of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan region, owner Woody Woodruff said a drought that started in the spring decimated over 1,000 trees on his 53-acre farm, which grows Virginia pine trees.

“There’s gonna be a lack of trees this year. In the South, which includes Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, there’s some tree growers that are all down in those states that experienced drought conditions and therefore it’s gonna be a little more difficult to get the trees that we needed,” Woodruff told GMA.

Woodruff explained that in addition to drought, businesses like his have also been hit by higher prices.

“We all use diesel fuel or gasoline, that was more expensive this year,” the 55-year-old farm owner said. “Our fertilizers, some of them more than doubled [in price] this year. And so that really took a toll … and that was nationwide. So that took a toll on anybody that is in the farming industry trying to grow Christmas trees.”

To make up for the lost sales, Woodruff plans on trucking in trees from other areas, including Michigan and states in the Pacific Northwest and the Carolinas.

“Of course those trees are going to be more expensive. So the consumer is going to pay more this year when they go to find a live tree,” Woodruff continued. “And if you go to any of the big box stores, I’ve noticed that their artificial trees have really skyrocketed as well. That’s again due to inflation and shipping.”

Overall, Woodruff estimated that customers could see as much as a 30% increase in Christmas tree prices compared to last year.

For now, though transportation costs has been “outrageous” at times, Woodruff said it’s a necessary expenditure, and he’s not worried in the long term.

“We’re eating as much of the cost as we possibly can and still staying in business,” Woodruff added. “Everything’s gonna work out as it should. Is it, you know, sickening to sit here and look at all of my lost trees that have died, that I have spent 25 years growing? Absolutely. But I think it’ll all come back. You just have a positive outlook and just keep trudging ahead. … You can’t cry over spilt milk.”

Both the NCTA and ACTA representatives say there should still be plenty of Christmas trees for everyone interested at the end of the day, real or artificial.

“We always say there’s a tree for every family,” O’Connor said. “There are trees for different budgets too. So if you really are concerned about price, you know, yes, it won’t be the most beautiful tree on the lot perhaps but there’ll be a tree that fits your price range, that when you bring it home, you’ll enjoy it in your home.”

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