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b6xmas-3 Dylan Willits, left, a sales associate at The Andersons, jokes with Roger and Sherri Kerner of West Toledo before taking their newly chosen tree to be wrapped up and trimmed on the Christmas tree lot at the company’s store in West Toledo. The store began the season with 1,190 fraser fir trees for sale.
Dylan Willits, left, a sales associate at The Andersons, jokes with Roger and Sherri Kerner of West Toledo before taking their newly chosen tree to be wrapped up and trimmed on the Christmas tree lot at the company’s store in West Toledo. The store began the season with 1,190 fraser fir trees for sale.
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Published: Friday, 12/6/2013 - Updated: 9 months ago

Christmas tree prices in area remain steady

Fresh-cut cost could needle up next year

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how ever high your price tag?

This year, the song … er, price, remains the same as the last few years, say the area’s fresh-cut Christmas tree sellers.

Next year, however, there could be a slight price increase.

“They’re basically the same as last year,” said Terry Irmen, buyer of trees and other lawn and garden supplies for The Andersons general stores.

The most popular choice — a 6-foot Fraser fir — can be had for about $30 at The Andersons, and at most other sellers in the area, Mr. Irmen said. “I checked around and practically everybody has them for the same price.”

A 6-foot Scotch pine is priced between $20 to $25 at The Andersons, Mr. Irmen said.

Depending on the tree, prices can vary slightly at locations around town.

For example, Lowe’s is slightly higher at $35 for a 6-foot Fraser fir. However, a 6-foot Scotch pine at Lowe’s is just $18. Menards is advertising a 6-foot Scotch pine for $15, and a 6-foot Douglas fir for $25.

At U-cut farms where customers pick out their own tree and cut them down, the prices are higher, but consumers are generally paying for an experience as well as a tree.

Duke Wheeler, owner of the Whitehouse Christmas Tree Farm in Whitehouse, said he has not raised his prices in 20 years.

He charges per foot, and prices are $7 for a white pine or Scotch pine, $8 for a Douglas fir, $10 for a blue spruce, and $11 for a Fraser fir.

Jared Wisniewski, a supervisor on the Christmas tree lot at The Andersons in West Toledo, carries a newly trimmed and cut tree out for a customer. The store began the season with 1,190 Fraser fur trees for sale. Jared Wisniewski, a supervisor on the Christmas tree lot at The Andersons in West Toledo, carries a newly trimmed and cut tree out for a customer. The store began the season with 1,190 Fraser fur trees for sale.
THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Mr. Wheeler said his prices aren’t based on quality or height, but rather on the time and effort it takes to grow a tree. It takes him seven years to grow Scotch pines or white pines, nearly 10 years for other trees.

At Rick & Carl’s Trees, a U-cut farm in Bowling Green, prices have remained the same since 2011, the last time owner Rick Johnson raised his prices because of rising costs.

Mr. Johnson charges $6 per foot for a Scotch pine, $8 per foot for a blue spruce or a Douglas fir, and $9 per foot for a Fraser fir.

Mr. Johnson said most customers prefer a fir tree. “It use to be all pines, but now it’s gone to firs,” he said. Fir trees have softer needles and straighter trunks, he said.

“The industry has transitioned over the last six or seven years,” Mr. Irmen said, agreeing.

“Now you get a lot of Fraser firs out of North Carolina. They are taller, bigger trees so they have the best value. Plus they retain their needles better and have a nice fragrance.”

Marsha Gray, executive director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association, said the explosion of tree farms in North Carolina about 10 years ago is what could lead to higher prices for trees starting next year.

“I think, overall, you’re going to see very similar pricing this year as last year,” Ms. Gray said. “But maybe you are going to see a small increase in some places this year and most likely next year.”

Ms. Gray said a decade ago Christmas tree-farm speculators bought a lot of land in North Carolina, expecting to make money.

“They planted a ton of product, and then when the trees were ready, there was a glut, and they saw their prices go down,” she said.

The speculators left the market and did not replant, meaning that this year and next the industry expects a decrease in tree inventory from North Carolina that could lead to a slight pricing increase, she said.

“Michigan growers stayed pretty well-balanced,” Ms. Gray said. There should be little to no price impact next year at temporary tree lots that operate seasonally, she added.

It also will not affect local tree growers like Mr. Wheeler, who likes to caution customers to keep trees fresh and away from candles, and who gives away many trees to the needy or families with loved ones in the military.

Mr. Wheeler has set aside 150 trees this year for Vietnam veterans, families with a service member overseas, and families whose service member returned home this year. Whitehouse Christmas Tree Farm also is sending 200 trees to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio through a Trees for Troops program. “We like getting involved with the troops. It’s pretty rewarding to our family to do this,” Mr. Wheeler said.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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