Chicago-Area Christmas Tree Shortage Is Already Worse Than Expected

The shortage has been ongoing since 2012, but recent consumer trends and climate change may be compounding the problem

NBC Universal, Inc.

Yes, the ongoing limited supply of Christmas trees continues in 2021, but it’s much worse than last year due to several recent trends and climate factors.

Since last year’s pandemic lockdown, the demand for Christmas trees has skyrocketed, especially for real trees.

Recent severe weather across the country hurt tree harvests, while the 2012 drought has been the main cause for tree shortages in recent years.

On average, Christmas trees only grow one foot per year. That means many popular premium trees planted in 2012 would be prime to sell now. Hence, replacing supply doesn’t happen overnight and can takes years to do.

Chris Hohenstein of City Tree Delivery in Chicago said a few of his vendors had to cancel orders for trees over 7 feet tall or cut back.

“I probably called 100 suppliers trying to get some new vendors this year. One of my main suppliers didn’t have any trees for me,” said Hohenstein. “Anything we’re trying to sell this year was probably planted in 2012 to 2016. So, we’re really limited and will probably be limited for the next several years.”

Hohenstein said his delivery service has seen a more than 60% increase in customer orders, year-to-date. He predicted he’ll be out of his current stock of trees by Dec. 1.

“This is probably the tightest market we’ve ever had,” said Hohenstein.

Don’t think showing up in person will give you a one-up.

Pete Ternes of Middle Brow Brew Pub has been operating a Christmas tree lot next to his business for the past three years. He said this year has the highest demand yet.

“We’ll probably only have them for about a week and half to two weeks,” said Ternes. “Our labor costs have gone up; equipment costs have gone up. It’s hard to get things.”

That’s why prices are up in 2021, too.

Ternes said his prices are up by 10%. Other owners said consumers can expect to see tree prices up by as much as 25%.

“Shipping [has] gone up double or triple,” said Hohenstein. “We had to raise our prices by $5 to $10 per tree.”

This year, the early bird may actually be right on time.

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