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Christmas tree shortage has retailers worried: ‘Come early and pick them out’

Updated December 1, 2021 - 3:53 am

Christmas tree retailers say an unusual holiday season of high demand and below-average inventory may make late tree-shopping difficult in Las Vegas and around the country.

Snags in the supply chain and ground shipping have hit both artificial tree and real tree retailers and nurseries, according to the American Christmas Tree Association. Droughts and wildfires in the Pacific Northwest have also affected some farms, the industry group said.

The result of those conditions is potential for stock of both types of trees to deplete quickly in the approximately 10 days between Black Friday and the first weekend of December, when many Americans buy their holiday trees.

“If they’re looking for a nice tree, come early and pick them out,” said Matthew Fichera, Nevada regional manager of Moon Valley Nurseries. “Come get it early and get your tree up and settled because I just don’t know what the last two weeks are going to bring. We could be shutting those doors pretty early this year, depending on what’s going on.”

The garden store and nursery has three locations in the Las Vegas Valley and normally orders thousands of trees from Oregon farmers, Fichera said. Lower demand in previous years led those farmers to plant fewer trees, resulting in less available years later when they reached maturity.

“We’ve been told from our farms that some of them are just not ready yet,” he said. “They’re just not big enough. It’s something where we don’t want to mess up next year’s supply too by cutting them too early.”

For anyone willing to brave the wilderness, some Christmas tree cutting permits are available in Nevada’s national forests through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s forest service. Interested Christmas-lumberjacks can purchase a permit in several districts of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest for $10. More details are available online at recreation.gov.

The market for artificial trees — the option most often chosen for American homes, according to Neilsen surveys with the American Christmas Tree Association — is particularly hit by snags in the global supply chain. Most trees are manufactured in China, said Mac Harman, CEO of Balsam Hill.

His company’s high-end, direct-to-consumer tree and other decor had a solid weekend of sales from Black Friday to Cyber Monday this year, he said. He feared above-average demand from this year’s holiday season in-person, plus a larger potential of customers that moved to larger homes during the pandemic may result in more interested customers. But that did not appear to be the case, he said.

“Sales were strong, but our inventory is still stocked,” Harman said. “Of note, we actually have way more selection and volume available than this time last year because last year we were mostly sold out by (Cyber Monday) due to strong Covid demand we didn’t plan for.”

Ultimately, he expects marketwide product availability to depend on consumers’ behavior in the next week.

“In terms of if there’s enough trees or not depends on consumer demand, and if consumer demand is down, there may be plenty of trees,” he said. “If consumer demand is flat, we’re gonna be a little short. And if consumer demand is up, then we’re going to definitely be short.”

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

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