COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)— With December fast approaching people are looking towards the next big holiday, Christmas. Many people are getting their decorations out of storage, putting up lights, and picking out trees. However, with inflation affecting production and fuel costs, the ticket on the tree may be more than it was last year.
WRBL spoke with two local Christmas tree vendors; Dave’s Christmas Tree Farm and Kimi Farms. Both locations agree the biggest factor driving prices are fuel costs.
Located at 2300 Whittlesey Road, Kimi Farms has been servicing the Chattahoochee Valey for 46 years. The family-owned tree farm reports their prices have gone up $10 to $15 on average per tree.
Co-owner of Kimi Farms, Gilbert Miller, says the trees have more surprises than what’s put under them on Christmas morning. Year-round the trees themselves have tons of hidden costs that impacts their final price tag.
All of Kimi Farms’ trees are Frasier Firs brought in from the mountains of western North Carolina. Miller says the growers of these trees report all of their production costs have gone up.
“Everyone I’ve talked to up there has said that they haven’t seen one thing that has stayed stable on their end,” Miller stated.
These trees require year-round maintenance, fertilizing, and semi-annual pruning which drives labor and maintenance costs. Once a tree is ready to cut, it’s then brought down to Kimi Farms in Columbus. Fuel, freight, and diesel costs are some of the largest driving factors for the increase in price for your Fir. Supply chain issues have also impacted prices of goods. From the steel on the tractor to the twine that is used to wrap the trees, prices have nearly doubled.
“We’ve seen inflation affect everything from our tree stands to just the basic stuff that we use. A nail that we use in our wooden stands that we used last year cost us $0.50, now it us over a dollar. To use our boards that we make our big wood stands out of were $5 last year, they’re $10 this year. There’s not a single part of what we do that we haven’t seen those price increases,” Miller said.
In addition to this, Kimi Farms offers delivery and setup services for their trees to most areas of the Chattahoochee valley. Miller says for the first time in a decade they’ve had to bump up these fees as well.
“This year, for the first time in probably a decade, we’ve had to go up about $10 in our delivery fees solely based on fuel costs alone,” he said. Delivery and set-up rates range from $20 to $75 depending on the location and size of tree.
Their most expensive tree on the lot is $350 which stands about 13-feet tall; however, he says their tree for an average home cost between $80-$90. This price is on par with the average tree prices across the nation. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, last year Spruce, Firs, and Pines cost around $70, this year they range anywhere between $80-$90.
Dave’s Christmas Tree Farm
Located at 6471 Veterans Parkway, Dave’s Christmas Tree Farm has been servicing the Greater Columbus area for more than 25 years.
Owner Dave Bone says last year’s supply chain shortages continue to impact price and the Christmas tree production process, something he spent the last two to three years preparing for to keep his costs down.
He says he took last year’s Christmas tree shortage this year’s inflation prices into consideration heading into this year’s selling season. This year he bought additional trees, which are brought in from western North Carolina, Michigan, and Canada. Bone says fuel costs is one of the largest driving factors for prices.
“It’s the freight and the labor. Of course, the gas, the fuel, the tools, stuff like that has gone up a little bit,” Bone said. “If you’ve got 100, 10-to-12-foot trees and you used to be able for a thousand bucks, get them on a truck, and now it costs $2,500 to get that tree on there. Well, now you’ve got to make up for it. Freight has pretty much doubled since last year.”
Despite this, he says his prices have only gone up marginally.
“We’re probably up five or 10%, I guess maybe. To me it’s not that drastic. I’ve actually heard a lot of customers say that they thought they would be higher,” he said.
His plan to make up for the rise in costs? Being proactive. Bone has cut back on labor costs, fit as many trees in one truckload as he could, avoided last minute shopping by having his tools handy and made a lot of his materials from scratch.
To put it into perspective, with only a 5 to 10% increase in prices, a tree that cost $100 last year now costs between $105-$110. Dave’s Christmas Tree Farm also has a flat-rate delivery and set-up fee for $40.
Despite the rise in prices, both tree farms say consumers are heading out to get their trees earlier this year and report Black Friday weekend to have been their busiest weekend yet.
“People are buying a lot earlier now,” Bone said. He started selling this year around Nov. 15th. “Now, they are calling me the beginning of November asking when the trees are coming. I mean, before Thanksgiving came, we sold trailer loads.”
Bone says typically the first two weekends in December are their busiest time selling trees.
Miller also says Kimi Farms’ trees began selling days ahead of their regular selling-season.
“Typically, we tell everybody that our sales begin on Thanksgiving, but the truth is that Columbus residents have some sort of internal radar where they can sense when the trees come. So [the trees] showed up on Monday and the customers showed up right after that. We were off and running the minute the trees got off of the truck,” Miller said.
He says despite the increase in price this year, Kimi Farms has seen normal business with Sunday, Nov. 27th being their busiest day so far.
If sales continue at their estimated pace, the busiest is yet to come as Americans are expected to spend about $6 billion on Christmas trees this year. Experts with the National Christmas Tree Association and Real Christmas Tree Board recommend picking out trees earlier rather than later to ensure consumers get the desired size and style they want.