Artificial Christmas Trees: Here's What You Should Know This Year

Global supply chain disruptions are affecting the fake tree industry.
Christmas trees in a display room of an artificial Christmas tree factory in the Chinese manufacturing hub of Yiwu -- known as "Santa's real workshop" -- in 2016.
JOHANNES EISELE via Getty Images
Christmas trees in a display room of an artificial Christmas tree factory in the Chinese manufacturing hub of Yiwu -- known as "Santa's real workshop" -- in 2016.

Halloween season is upon us, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to think about the December holidays. This is particularly true if you’re planning to order an artificial Christmas tree this year.

“The Christmas tree industry is facing the same challenges as are most of the Christmas-related products ― mainly supply chain issues,” Jami Warner, executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association, told HuffPost.

The ACTA is a nonprofit organization and industry trade group that represents those involved in the artificial Christmas tree industry. As with many trade groups, they’re seeing members grapple with major delays and shortages amid the current global supply chain crisis.

What’s Happening With The Supply Chain

If you haven’t been keeping up with the coverage, here’s the gist of it: U.S. ports are congested and overwhelmed, as the flow of goods has exceeded unloading capacities. As a result, record numbers of cargo ships are stuck waiting to be unloaded, creating further backlogs.

The delivery drivers who transport goods within the U.S. are also overworked and facing their own challenges. Thus, inventory is in short supply and delivery delays are the norm.

“Christmas trees, electronics, toys, appliances, computers, cars ― all are experiencing extreme supply chain challenges this season,” Warner said. “We’re all in the same boat, pun intended. Our members have had to scramble for inventory and pay a lot more for it. In some cases, shipping container costs have risen more than 300% over last year.”

He noted that the demand for all kinds of Christmas trees was particularly high in 2020 as people were eager to foster a sense of cheer and merriment at home amid the isolation and despair of the pandemic. This year, there’s still a great deal of demand, but artificial tree retailers are struggling.

An operations executive at the California-based artificial tree retailer Balsam Hill told Quartz earlier this month that the supply chain disruptions, coupled with the short sales window for Christmas trees, have created a logistical nightmare for his industry.

“It’s a constant struggle,” he said, noting that he’s “fighting for space” on cargo ships and watching delivery date estimates inch closer and closer to Christmas.

What To Know About Artificial Trees

Many consumers prefer artificial Christmas trees to the real deal because they generally don’t shed needles, require no watering or upkeep and aren’t at risk for pest infestations. There are also a number of pre-lit options and fun color choices.

But from an environmental perspective, fake trees probably aren’t the best move. The majority are imported from China, and they’re often made with non-recyclable plastic linked to adverse health and environmental effects.

Still, you can turn your artificial tree choice into a more eco-friendly option if you purchase one that’s manufactured domestically with less problematic materials, and reuse it year after year. Look for a “Made In USA” label or note in the online product description.

With the supply chain challenges of the moment, some consumers who were planning to go artificial might have no choice but to purchase a real tree from a lot or farm this year. But Warner is cautiously optimistic about the fake tree market ― at least for those who can think ahead.

“While we expect that consumers will still be able to find a Christmas tree this season, we recommend that they buy early,” Warner advised.

So if you’re a fan of faux firs (and you celebrate the holiday), it’s time to look at your options and select your holiday centerpiece.

“Consumers should look forward to safely gathering with their families around a Christmas tree of their choice,” Warner said. “And there are so many wonderful, exciting choices ― from the traditional to the funky. There is a Christmas tree out there for everyone.”

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