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Artificial Christmas Trees: What You Need to Know This Year

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

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

ACTA is a non-profit organization and industry trade group that represents those involved in the artificial Christmas tree industry. As with many trade groups, they are seeing members grappling with major delays and shortages amid the current global supply chain crisis.

what’s up with the supply chain

In case you haven’t been following the coverage, here’s the gist of it: US ports are overcrowded and overwhelmed, as the flow of cargo exceeds unloading capacity. As a result, record numbers of cargo ships are stuck waiting to be unloaded, creating further backlogs.

Delivery drivers transporting goods within the US 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 facing extreme supply chain challenges this season,” Warner said. “We are all in the same boat, pun intended. Our members have to scramble for inventory and pay a lot for it. In some cases, shipping containers cost more than 300% over the previous year has increased.

He said the demand for Christmas trees of all kinds was particularly high in 2020 as people were eager to foster a sense of joy and happiness in the home amid the isolation and gloom of the pandemic. This year, there’s still a lot of demand, but artificial tree retailers are struggling.

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

“It’s a constant struggle,” he said, noting that he’s “fighting for space” on cargo ships and seeing 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 typically don’t shed needles, require no watering or maintenance, and aren’t prone to insect infestations. There are also several pre-light options and fun color options.

But from an environmental point of view, fake trees probably aren’t the best move. Most are imported from China, and they are often made from non-recyclable plastics associated with adverse health and environmental impacts.

Still, you can change your artificial tree choice to a more eco-friendly option if you buy a home-made one with less problematic materials, and reuse it year after year. Look for the “Made in USA” label or note in the product description online.

With the supply chain challenges of this time, some consumers who were planning to get artificial may have no choice but to buy a real tree from the lot or from the farm this year. But Warner is cautiously optimistic about the fake tree market — at least to those who may be thinking ahead.

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

So if you’re a fan of fake fir (and you vacation), it’s time to look at your options and choose your holiday centerpiece.

“Consumers should expect to safely gather with their families around the Christmas tree of their choice,” Warner said. “And there are so many wonderful, exciting options—from traditional to funky. There’s a Christmas tree out there for everyone.”

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