"The Christmas tree is the center piece," said Joannie Smith, who owns River Ridge Christmas Tree Farm in Commerce with her husband, Jerry. "There's nothing like a tree you can look up to and be amazed by the lights and all the ornaments on it. It's just your holiday centerpiece."
River Ridge gets its trees for sale from Wautoma, Wis., and began selling them for the season Nov. 18.
"We've always specialized in the taller trees," Smith said. "I see some customers that normally have a tree and this year they're going with the taller ones."
River Ridge offers trees up to 15 feet, selling mostly Fraser and Balsam firs, Smith said. But the most common height is between 7 and 8 feet.
"The majority of the people don't have a vaulted ceiling," Smith said.
Irwin Loiterstein, a Christmas tree wholesaler in St. Louis who works with growers nationwide, said tall trees are in demand, but so are tiny ones suited to apartments and condominiums.
''There's been big surge in smaller and taller trees,'' said Loiterstein, who serves on the board of directors of the National Christmas Tree Association. ''I had a bunch of them last week and got rid of them, and all of sudden I'm getting calls all over the place.''
U.S. consumers plan to buy about the same number of real Christmas trees this year as in 2004, according to the results of a nationwide poll conducted by Harris Interactive.
The poll, conducted for the National Christmas Tree Association, projects that 24 percent of U.S. households will purchase a real Christmas tree in 2005 which would be about 27 million trees. Last year, 27.1 million U.S. households purchased a farm-grown Christmas tree. One-third as many households (8 percent) will purchase an artificial tree in 2005, according to the poll.
"One of the reasons people like real trees is the smell and the fact that they're real. And the prices are real cheap," said Sikeston Lowe's manager Matt Seabaugh.
At Lowe's in Sikeston, the largest trees for sale were 12 feet tall, Seabaugh said. "And we've sold out of those," he said.
However, most trees, which are Douglas and Fraser firs and Scotch pines, sold during the Christmas season at Lowe's are between 6 and 7 feet tall with the best seller being the Fraser fir, Seabaugh said.
"Honestly, tree sales really picked up for us when the weather turned cold, and it boosted our traffic of trees," Seabaugh said.
Garden Lane Nursery began selling Fraser firs Nov. 21, said owner Jim McCall.
"Typically, to sell Christmas trees, it needs to be on the cold side," McCall said.
Garden Lane offers taller tree sizes ranging from 8-, 9- and 10-foot trees, but the 7- and 8-foot trees are most popular, McCall said.
Both McCall and Smith said they think real Christmas tree sales are up this year.
Another trend this year was the increase in sales of trees prior to Thanksgiving.
"This is the first year we started selling before Thanksgiving weekend," McCall said.
McCall contributed the surge in pre-Thanksgiving sales to fallen gas prices.
"We sold more trees before Thanksgiving than ever before," Smith said.
But Smith said she isn't sure why there was an increase.
"I've been in the business almost 30 years, and I haven't figured it out yet," Smith said. "A lot of people want the perfect tree so the sooner they come out, the better tree selection they'll have."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.