Updated December 2, 2022 - 8:13 pm
Brandon and Lexes McCary arrived at Rudolph’s Christmas Trees at Tivoli Village hoping to start a new holiday tradition.
The couple was looking to purchase a Christmas tree for their daughter, Charlotte, who was born on Christmas Eve last year.
“This will be a new family tradition for us,” Brandon McCary said. “We’ve always had an artificial tree but we wanted to get a real tree for our daughter.”
And Lexes McCary said they opted to buy their tree this week to “enjoy it longer” and avoid the crowds.
The National Christmas Tree Association estimates 25 million to 30 million Christmas trees are sold each year. Its latest data estimated the median price of a tree in 2021 was $69.50.
With inflation impacting shoppers and businesses, it’s likely this year’s median price of a tree could be higher. In a survey from the trade group Real Christmas Tree Board, over 70 percent of growers said the wholesale price of trees will increase this year between 5 percent and 15 percent.
But local tree lots like Rudolph’s and Moon Valley Nurseries said they have kept their prices the same.
John Rubbico, president of Rudolph’s, said it has kept prices flat since last year, even though its operating costs have climbed steadily in recent years.
“My customers for five years in a row had an increase in price,” he said. “And I said (to tree growers) if you want my business, you need to lower my price and offset my fuel costs.”
Prices at Rudolph’s range from $40 for 3-foot trees to $99 for 8-foot trees, according to Rubbico. For those with an unlimited budget and ceiling height, shoppers can find a 12-foot noble fir on sale for $1,429.
Price wasn’t a huge factor for Travis and Vanessa McDonough while they were shopping for a tree with their sons, Calvin and Charlie, at Rudolph’s.
Vanessa McDonough said they usually pick out a tree that’s sparser than most, since it’s better for hanging ornaments.
“Calvin wants the biggest one possible, but we just want one that will fit in our house,” she said.
The couple eventually let Calvin pick a tree that had branches high enough off the ground so Santa could fit presents underneath.
‘Itching to get it up’
Matthew Fichera, Moon Valley’s regional manager, expects a busy season, despite persistently high inflation. And he suggested shoppers start planning ahead.
“If you want a specific size, come early,” Fichera said.
At Moon Valley’s Henderson location on South Eastern Avenue, 3-foot trees were priced from $50 to $70, and 8-foot trees were selling for $150 to $200. It also offered higher-priced trees around $400.
Both Rudolph’s and Moon Valley also want to enhance the holiday tree shopping experience by adding other features to its lots.
At Rudolph’s, visitors could purchase hot cocoa, while Moon Valley included extravagant holiday displays for family photo ops.
“I got toy soldiers. I got Santa, and I got the lights overhead and made it for a cool evening to come out. So it’s kind of a tradition,” Fichera said. “We try to create a consistent experience every year, and we try to get better with our photo ops.”
Michele Palmer-Baranowski sees getting a Christmas tree as the start of her holiday season preparations. She was with her grandchildren, Julien and Forever Baranowski, at Moon Valley.
“We’ve been itching to get it up and celebrate the holidays, since this has been a hard year,” Palmer-Baranowski said.
Rubbico expects a steady stream of demand for trees throughout December, which will be different compared to the pandemic years, when most people ordered trees remotely and early in the season.
“During the pandemic, if (customers) wanted the tree, they put it in right away,” Rubbico said. “So it’s back to the old way, (where it’s) not such a priority to get it at the beginning of the month.”
For prospective buyers trying to find the best tree, Rubbico offered a simple piece of advice.
“Always buy the freshest Christmas tree,” he said. “It’s just like the skin on your hand — if it’s soft, it’s healthy. If it’s rough, it’s not healthy.”