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Why Christmas trees are getting more expensive

Ethan Wolff-Mann
·Senior Writer

For some, Christmas trees are cheap. For people in the rural north, you can find them for free in the ground.

But for everyone else, they’re expensive — $76.35 on average — and getting pricier every year. Unless you wait a little.

The National Christmas Tree Association, which commissions a study of the market every year, reports on the prices. In 2017, they were $75 on average and in 2018, $76. In one year, this isn’t much price inflation, but it’s a big jump from just a few years ago.

Christmas tree prices have surged over the past few years.
Christmas tree prices have surged over the past few years.

In 2015, a Christmas tree cost just $50.82 on average, a 50% increase. In 2014, a tree cost $39.50 — almost half of what they cost today.

Some years are better than others, which makes for some small variation over time. In 2012, for example, trees were more expensive at $41.30 than the following two years.

People are blaming a shortage of trees, and pointing to the Great Recession of 2008. Trees take the better part of a decade to grow, and fewer trees were planted in the tough years.

That’s the likely reason prices spiked between 2014 and today, as the supply has contracted.

But demand has also been especially strong, likely because the economy is strong and consumer confidence is up. Even with tightened supply, real tree sales were up 20% between 2017 and 2018. Fake trees even saw a boom, with 12% growth year-over-year, according to the National Christmas Tree Association’s data.

A resident of Manhattan's Upper West Side purchases a Christmas tree from a street vendor on Friday, November 29, 2013. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Corbis via Getty Images)
A resident of Manhattan's Upper West Side purchases a Christmas tree from a street vendor on Friday, November 29, 2013. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Corbis via Getty Images)

Timing is everything

Though prices can be fixed at some Christmas tree sellers after the vendor writes a number on a tag with a Sharpie, there’s considerable price elasticity when it comes to timing.

With the National Christmas Tree Association, Square mapped out average prices on the calendar, focusing on November and December. Square found that the priciest day to buy a Christmas tree is Cyber Monday — when a tree costs $83.92 on average.

Not surprisingly, the most affordable day is Christmas Eve, when they cost just $50.34 on average. But even waiting until the last week before Christmas, prices drop 29% to $56.

Christmas tree prices spike on Cyber Monday.
Christmas tree prices spike on Cyber Monday.

The least popular time to buy a tree is the second weekend in December, the move to make for people who don’t want a crowd.

Location makes a big difference as well. In Vermont and Wyoming, a tree costs $40 on average. These two northern states — the least populous in the U.S. — are also the cheapest to get a tree.

Texas, however, commands an average price of $110, with Tennessee just behind at $108. Louisiana and Hawaii are the next two most expensive but are under the $100 mark, based on Square’s data.

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Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, personal finance, retail, airlines, and more. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

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