- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Americans are pining for Christmas trees — and this year’s supply chain crisis isn’t making them settle for a sad Charlie Brown fir or a pink aluminum “Evergleam.”

The American Christmas Tree Association‘s 11th annual Christmas Tree NielsenIQ Survey estimates that 75% of U.S. households — about 94 million homes — are displaying trees this year despite limited supplies and other pandemic-related challenges.

“We’re heartened to see that, even in the face of challenges posed by the pandemic, supply chain congestion, shipping container shortages, and extreme weather events, U.S. consumers have been able to continue their Christmas tree traditions in 2021,” said Jami Warner, executive director of the trade group for Christmas tree producers and retailers.

The Nielsen survey also found that 6.5 million households will display both live and artificial Christmas trees this year — an increase from last year.

“The past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have been challenging for everyone, and we think all families who celebrate are seeking out a little extra joy this season,” Ms. Warner said.

Of the trees displayed, 84% are artificial and 16% are farm-grown, confirming for Ms. Warner that “there really is no such thing as a bad Christmas tree, and the best tree is the one that fits a family’s traditions, preferences, and budget.”

Financial analysts welcomed the news as a sign of consumer resilience.

“It’s been a tough year on a lot of fronts, from the pandemic to inflation, but holiday traditions are made of strong stuff,” said Ryan Young, a senior fellow at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute. “It also helps that artificial trees last for many years, so most of the homes that go that route are unaffected by supply network problems at least in the tree department.”

Christine McDaniel, a senior fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center think tank, said the Nielsen findings confirm for economists that consumer demand for Christmas trees is “price inelastic.”

“That is, consumer demand does not change as much as price,” said Ms. McDaniel, a former deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury. “These statistics show that most Americans value the tradition, and are willing to pay a little more or drive a little further to get that tree in their living room.”

Not everybody is buying the same kind of tree as in years past.

Economist Peter C. Earle said it’s noteworthy that more people are buying artificial trees as the prices for all kinds of trees have steadily “risen in each of the last few years.”

“Artificial trees are plastic, and raw plastic prices are up almost 30% since January,” said Mr. Earle, who works at the American Institute for Economic Research free-market think tank in Massachusetts. “It’s funny to think that the demand for trees made of rubber and resin is more, yes, ‘inelastic’ than those of wood.”

The Washington Times reported in November that Christmas tree prices have gone up 10% to 20% for live trees and 10% to 30% for artificial ones from last year, according to the American Christmas Tree Association.

Angelica Gianchandani, a consumer behavior specialist in the Pompea School of Business at Connecticut’s University of New Haven, said her three children urged her to skip the tradition entirely after their local Whole Foods store ran out of trees and they found standard 5- to 6-foot trees selling for $200 at the Washington Park holiday stand in downtown New York City.

“The kids suggested we pass on the Christmas tree and save the funds to give back to the families affected by the devastating tornadoes in Kentucky,” said Ms. Gianchandani. 

The family ended up driving 40 miles to a Home Depot in New Jersey, where they purchased a 4-foot tree for $36 to save money for the tornado relief efforts.

“The heartwarming kindness to give back this season to those in need became the priority in our home,” Ms. Gianchandani said. “Christmas trees are the light creating a bond with our communities.”

The American Christmas Tree Association based its annual estimate on data that NielsenIQ collected through an English Language Panel Views Survey, which the firm sent to a representative subset of U.S. households. Nielsen projected the results to represent total U.S. households for the survey, conducted in November and released earlier this month.

“Whether families celebrate with an artificial tree, a farm-grown tree, or multiple trees, we know the joy that a Christmas tree brings during the holiday season,” said Ms. Warner, the tree association‘s executive director.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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