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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014

Real Christmas tree sales are dropping

Thursday, December 5, 2002

(Photo)
Jim McCall, of Garden Lane Nursery, cuts the base off of a Christmas tree for a customer.
(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Charlie Brown would have flipped out if the Peanuts gang had told him they wanted an artificial tree instead of the scrawny real one he chose for the Christmas play.

And these days Chuck might be a little disappointed in consumers because they're saying they'd rather have a fake Christmas tree than the real thing for the holidays.

A recent national survey by the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) reports real Christmas tree sales have dropped over the last 10 years. In 1991, nearly 49 percent, or 36,970,932, of trees displayed were real versus the 51 percent, or 38,866,878 fake Christmas Trees, according to the survey. In 2001, only 32 percent (27,800,000) of displayed Christmas trees were real compared to 68 percent (60,269,000) artificial trees.

Joannie Smith of River Ridge Christmas Trees in Commerce has been in the Christmas tree business for 23 years, and she said she isn't really surprised by the artificial tree trend.

"A lot of people put up more than one Christmas tree and use the real tree as their centerpiece (in the home)," Smith explained.

Smith sells Fraser firs, balsam firs and white pines. River Ridge used to grow Christmas trees, but recently, they decided to switch their focus and purchase trees from Wisconsin, she said.

Fraser firs last longer and are more fragrant than other Christmas trees, she said. The top selling Christmas Trees are: balsam fir, Douglas-fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine, and white pine.

Jim McCall, owner of Garden Lane Nursery in Sikeston, sells Fraser fir and Scotch pine Christmas trees. He said the Christmas tree business is pretty normal this year.

"This will probably be our biggest week," McCall said. "We get a lot of families who come out looking for a tree."

A lot of people came in just before Thanksgiving, Smith said. "This year we've sold more trees before Thanksgiving than ever before," she added. Smith credits early sales to a late Thanksgiving.

Smith thinks people buy real trees for the scent and the basic look of them.

Kari Wilhelm, her husband, James and their 1-1/2-year-old daughter, Emma, purchased a tree Thanksgiving weekend at River Ridge.

"We do have an artificial tree -- my husband grew up with one -- but with Emma being older and recognizing Christmas more, we decided to get a real tree this year," Wilhelm said.

Wilhelm said her daughter loves the tree and often checks the tree stand to make sure it's full of water and likes to throw beads on the tree to decorate it. However, she said she could also see why people would want an artificial tree if they have kids or because it might be easier to put up each year.

Coming together to pick out a tree has become a tradition for several area families, Smith said. "I was at a restaurant one time and a girl who was in her 20s was working and said, 'Hey, you're the Christmas tree lady. We've been getting your trees since I was a little girl,'" Smith recalled with a laugh.

Buying real Christmas trees isn't just for families with children, Smith noted. "We get quite a few single people who come and buy a tree. We also get adults who don't have children," she said.

Smith added that Christmas trees give off a lot of oxygen and keep many U.S. families in business. Almost all artificial trees are imports. Christmas trees are a crop just like corn and wheat, she added.

The NCTA said there are about 1 million acres in production for growing Christmas Trees. Each acre provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people. North-American Real Christmas Trees are grown in all 50 states and Canada. Eighty percent of artificial trees are manufactured in China, according to NCTA.

"I personally have always liked real trees," Wilhelm said. "I like the smell of them, and I just think they put people in more of a Christmas mood."

* Select the freshest looking tree available. Make a fresh two-inch cut across the tree's base and immediately place in water within 30 minutes after the cut. Keep the tree's water container full at all times, checking the water level daily.

* Be extra careful with electricity, all open flames and other heat sources during the holidays.

* Check all Christmas tree lights, other electric decorations and electrical appliances for wear (frayed cords, for example). Do not use lights, decorations or appliances with worn electrical cords. Use only UL approved electrical decorations and extension cords.

* Place the Christmas tree well away from heat registers, space heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, televisions, computer monitors and other heat sources.

* Place the Christmas tree clear of doors to keep the emergency escape route clear of trees, packages and furniture.

* Unplug tree lights and other decorations when out of the room or sleeping.

* Do not put any additives like aspirin or bleach in the tree water. Plain water works best.

* Close the vent near the tree in centrally heated homes.

Sources: National Christmas Tree Association and River Ridge Christmas Trees