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Christmas tree farmers worry about supply chain, costs ahead of 2021 holiday season

Posted at 7:57 AM, Jul 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 09:18:12-04

WILLOUGHBY HILLS, Ohio — The holiday season may be a few months away, but Christmas tree vendors are already anticipating possible business hiccups and increased costs related to the coronavirus pandemic.

While it may only be Christmas in July, tree farmers like Jeff Greig, of Greig Christmas Tree Farm in Willoughby Hills, is worried about how the supply chain will affect Christmas tree sales.

“We're worried about the supply chain like everybody else is. And so that's one of the things we're worried about,” said Greig.

For the second year in a row, economic experts say COVID-19 could have an economic impact on Christmas tree sales.

“There's a real question about what this might do, the pricing of trees or even availability of trees,” said Michael Goldberg, a professor at Case Western Reserve University.

Goldberg said while more people may be willing to deck the halls as COVID-19 restrictions loose, the demand for Christmas trees might not mean a big profit for farmers or retailers.

Labor shortages are among the top concerns.

“The Christmas tree market, for example, are there going to be enough folks to cut the trees down?" said Goldberg. "Are there going to be enough people to drive the trucks to get the Christmas trees to the lots where people can buy them?

The price of shipping and freight also could play a factor.

“Based on the amount of miles that the truck has to come and how much diesel they're used and things like that. So, again, it just kind of depends on what kind of farm you're talking about,” said Greig.

As for who will suffer in sales the most? Greig said it will be retailers and organizations that have to pay for shipping inventory.

“The corner, lots of Lowe's, Home Depot, the Boy Scouts selling out of a church. They're definitely going to see a little bit more shipping cost because those trees are probably coming from outside the state of Ohio,” Greig said.

The surge in online shopping during the pandemic has rapidly increased freight costs, forcing the tree industry to pay more in overhead for things like netting and fertilizer.

“Our markets are cyclical and we've gone through other challenging times, like in 2008 or in 2001,” said Goldberg.

Greig encourages the public to choose local by cutting down their tree at local farms.

“If it's a choose and cut farm, especially in the Cleveland area, a lot of those farms are going to be growing and selling their own trees," he said.

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