Christmas tree sales boom as people decorate early
Business is booming for Pete Hyde, owner of Trinity Street Christmas Trees in Dorset. Every year he runs a pop-up site in the centre of Dorchester to sell the trees he grows.
This year, despite the need for social distancing and hand sanitiser, as well as shops being closed, he’s already sold nearly a third more trees than usual for this point in the season.
And Christmas tree growers across the UK say they are having a bumper year.
“This year everybody is more than ever determined to have a fantastic Christmas,” says Pete. “People are buying trees earlier and people are willing to push the boat out.”
“A lot of customers say this is the first time they’ve had a real tree.”
But just a few weeks ago Pete was “petrified” that customers would buy their trees at a supermarket or garden centre. As essential retailers, they have been allowed to trade during lockdown, while people like him initially were not.
After lobbying from growers, the government relented and since then the spruces and firs have been flying off the farms.
Heather Parry from the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) says several of her 320 members say it is the busiest they’ve ever been. UK farms usually sell about eight million trees each year. This year they predict it could reach as many as 10 million. Growers say wholesale business to retailers is already 24% higher than this time last year.
It could be that some sales are coming earlier as people seek out a tree while they wait to be allowed to go shopping again. Fewer people are going abroad, and there are many more smaller gatherings taking place instead of large family get-togethers, requiring more, smaller trees, along with smaller turkeys.
And more people want the smell of the outdoors and the sense that they are doing something “authentic” this year. Some people are even buying an extra tree this year, she says. “Your home is more your castle this year more than ever before,” she says. “And you’ve got time to make paperchains, bake the salt dough decorations.”
York Christmas Trees, which has supplied this year’s tree to 10 Downing Street, has been so busy “there’s been no time to breathe” says owner Olly Combe. “My wholesale customers are ringing back, wanting more trees, and I’m getting enquiries from people I’ve never sold to before.”
“We cut trees every week – we can control the rate they come out of the field at. We can’t control the rate customers come down the drive at.”
It takes up to 10 years to grow trees from saplings, so he has to be careful not use up too much of next year’s stocks.
So might the supply of trees run out?
Ms Parry says imports from Denmark have been negatively affected by a new strain of Covid-19 found at mink farms in the same region the trees grow. On top of that, slower processing at UK ports, due to the virus, has caused delays.
She thinks supplies could get “tight” but everyone who wants a tree should be able to get one.
“As long as you still have growers who can harvest on demand, we’ll be OK to meet demands of market,” says Pete Hyde in Dorset.
He still currently has the full range on offer.
“If you want a good-shaped tree with good needle retention, then go for a Nordmann fir – which is probably 80% of the market, it’s what everyone has.”
“If you want a slimmer tree with a lovely smell, go for a Fraser fir or a silver fir,” he says.
And if you want something with a more tiered appearance? It’s the noble fir – although most of us don’t want to hear any more about tiers, even on trees. Pete himself doesn’t bother deciding. He’ll have three trees of three different kinds, dotted around his house. That is, of course, assuming he’s got enough left.