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Published: Friday, 12/24/2010

Tree sales in area strong from early to last minute

Stephen Brannan was prepared for last-minute shoppers who came to buy live Christmas trees Friday at Matthes Evergreen Farm in Ida, Mich.

Although holiday sales at the 90-acre farm usually start around Thanksgiving, the business keeps inventory ready for latecomers. Matthes had about 22 cut trees available about noon on Christmas Eve after two shoppers came in that morning.

"There are always procrastinators," said Mr. Brannan, field manager at Matthes.

Menards in Oregon sold its final live tree last weekend after the store put the last of its inventory on sale. General Manager Dave Long said the store ran out of fresh Christmas trees more rapidly than in previous years.

"People got out and they got them early this year," said Mr. Long, whose store was still selling artificial trees for 50 percent off Friday. "It's been tremendous."

Barry Bergman, president of Bergman Orchards in Port Clinton, sold his last cut tree a few days ago. His business sold about 500 Christmas trees this season, ranging in price from $20 to $43, and Mr. Bergman offered discounts to buyers who came in during the week leading up to the holiday.

In past years, Bergman Orchards has donated leftover live trees to needy families. Mr. Bergman said he believes many Toledo-area residents are feeling more optimistic about the economy, which helped the business sell all its trees.

"The people that normally waited, they bought earlier," Mr. he said. "Maybe they had a little extra money in their pockets."

Hoen's Greenhouse & Garden Center in Holland stayed open until 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Advertising Manager Heather Hoen said the store had seven cut trees that it wanted to sell Friday -- each at a 10 percent discount.

"Some people, it's their tradition to come in Christmas Eve," she said.

Leftover trees at Hoen's probably will be turned into grave decorations after the holidays, Mrs. Hoen said.

About a dozen of the leftover trees at Matthes Evergreen Farm were to be sold to a local church, and the rest were to be discarded. Mr. Brannan said he was willing to make deals with shoppers who could give the last trees a home for Christmas.

"If someone wants to argue about it, we'll talk to them," he said.

It is expected to be a good year overall for Christmas tree sales.

The American Christmas Tree Association, a trade group in Los Angeles, said last month that it expected sales of live and artificial Christmas trees to grow from last year.

Contact Sheena Harrison at: sharrison@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.



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