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Artificial trees cut into real tree sales

Madison Mathews • Dec 17, 2012 at 10:21 PM

During the holiday seasons of years past, the sale of Christmas trees at Stanley’s Produce & Garden Center on West Market Street used to make up a large part of the store’s December income. That isn’t the case anymore.

This year, John Darr said he and his wife, Tracy, have sold less than 100 Fraser Firs since Thanksgiving.

“There was a time when we sold 1,000 each season,” he said. “Our Christmas trees used to be a big thing and a big part of our income in December and now it’s become something that’s just out there to draw people in. Our biggest sales are the fruit baskets that we make.”

While the economy might have something to do with the decrease of Christmas tree sales, Darr said there’s another culprit — the artificial tree.

“Artificial trees have come a long way in 20 years. You can get them pre-lit and they look beautiful,” he said. “You’re going to buy a beautiful tree for $25, $50 or you’re going to have buy a live tree that you’re going to have to put lights on for $50.”

According to an American Christmas Tree Association survey conducted by Neilsen, only 23 percent of U.S. households will display a real Christmas tree this holiday season.

A whopping 83 percent of households will display an artificial tree. That number increased from 79 percent in 2011, the American Christmas Tree Association said.

Robert Keefer, department manager of Lowe’s in Jonesborough, has seen an increase of artificial tree sales over the last few years.

“It has been popular the last couple of years just because of the convenience of it. People don’t want to fool with having to load it up or worry about lighting their trees when they already come assembled and pre-lit,” he said.

For purists, nothing can beat the real tree. While there is more upkeep for a few weeks, many cite the fresh smell as the reason to go with a real tree.

Depending on the quality, artificial trees can run anywhere from $20 to hundreds of dollars, and they often times come pre-lit.

At Stanley’s, the Darrs sell their real trees for $20-30, in addition to Christmas wreaths for $10.

The low price point for the trees has been in place for years, Darr said, even though sales each year have steadily decreased.

Since there are also a number of Christmas tree farms in the area, Darr said many families take the time to travel to those businesses to get their Christmas tree fix.

But that’s not going to stop Darr from selling trees.

“We’ll continue to sell trees as long as we’re here. We just bring in less and less each year. We’ll sell them all the way up till Christmas Eve,” he said.

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