Word to the wise: if you want a live Christmas tree this year, don’t delay your purchase too long.
Local vendors say that the delivery of trees has been affected by supply chain issues, and a survey of local stores appears to show that they are being sold in fewer locations than in the past.
Chrissy and Kerry Foley of Merry Christmas Trees of Bradenton have been selling trees in Bradenton for about six years. This year, their lot is on the south side of Manatee Avenue West at 33rd Street Court West, and they are selling trees 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
“Every one of our truck loads have been short of trees. The tall ones are especially hard to come by,” Chrissy Foley said Monday.
The Foleys, who had to sit out last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, expect to sell more than 800 trees this season. A portion of the proceeds from their sales to Anna Maria Island residents will go to the Anna Maria Island Community Center.
Business was brisk last weekend, and it will be even busier this weekend, she said.
Trees for a good cause
Business was also brisk at the Loving Hands Ministry tree lot in Ellenton. Loving Hands has operated a Christmas tree lot for 25 years to support its ministry aimed at helping men overcome drug and alcohol addiction.
Keith Stolte, program manager, said Monday that buyers hit the Loving Hands Christmas tree lot hard this past weekend, and his supply at 2900 U.S. 310 N., Ellenton, was a little low.
“Our second load of trees is coming Tuesday,” he said. Typically, Loving Hands sells 800 to 1,000 trees a season.
Donna Boyle was one of the first buyers to check out the trees in the Loving Hands tent.
“I am impressed because they are really fresh,” Boyle said.
She was looking for, and found, a smaller, skinnier tree to to go into a corner.
Another buyer drove to the Loving Hands tree lot from Anna Maria Island because her congregation at Roser Memorial Community Church supports the ministry to help men overcome addiction problems.
She was also successful in finding the tree she wanted, which Stolte trimmed and loaded into her car.
Why a shortage of trees?
This year’s supply chain issues stem from the Great Recession of 2008-09, when many Christmas tree growers got stuck with a lot of trees that they couldn’t sell, and left the business.
It has taken the better part of a decade for the Christmas tree industry to recover.
“They have trees in the ground, but they don’t have enough trees,” said Jennifer Greene, executive director of the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association, which supplies many trees to the Florida market.
“It takes eight to 10 years to make it right,” Greene said of the planting of trees, particularly the Fraser fir, a popular variety which is a slow grower.
This year, demand is growing with some growers reporting more trees sold on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend than they sold all of last season, she said.
“COVID has also increased the desire by more people to have real trees,” Greene said.