Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fake Christmas trees gaining popularity

Is it time now to purchase a fake tree?

This is a rather interesting Christmas story from MSNBC News, although I think the war between fake Christmas trees and real Christmas trees will never be resolved:

On Nov. 30, Jason Baer sent out a tweet, or message, on the social networking site Twitter announcing a milestone in his life:

"Broke down & bought a faux Xmas tree. It's nice, and I'm psyched for no needle clean-up, but still a bit apprehensive. Your experiences?"

After 18 years of buying only real trees, Baer, a 39-year old social media and e-mail consultant from Flagstaff, Ariz., decided to invest in an artificial tree for this year.

“I switched teams,” he says, still a tinge of discomfort in his voice. “This year I felt a real tree was a little too much of a hassle.”

[....]

So he went online and bought a $700 artificial tree with the lights already attached and now he’s in Christmas tree nirvana. “It took me 10 minutes to put up the tree,” he says. In the long run, he figures the decision will even save him money.

After he announced his decision Baer conducted a Twitter poll and found that the majority, 17 people, voted for a fake tree, while only eight votes came in for the real variety.

Baer’s informal survey reflects what’s been happening among Christmas tree buyers nationwide in recent years. While real trees are still the favored purchase among consumers, artificial trees are gaining ground.

In 2007, 17.4 million people bought artificial Christmas trees -- a whopping 87 percent jump from the previous year's total of 9.3 million, according to a survey conducted for the National Christmas Tree Association, whose members are farmers and retailers of real trees. Rick Dungey, a spokesman for the association, could not explain the huge jump and said it seemed to be a statistical anomaly, although the margin of error for the survey is only 3.1 percent.

While live trees are still outselling fake ones, with about 31.3 million bought last year, all signs indicate their artificial counterparts are becoming a bigger and bigger piece of the Christmas tree buying pie.

“I can tell you over the last few years we’ve seen a steady increase,” says Jean Niemi, a spokeswoman for Home Depot, referring to artificial tree sales.

So what is fueling this trend in artificial tree sales? Jeff Bischoff, creative director from the National Tree Co., an artificial tree wholesaler, believes that one of the big factors fueling the artificial tree sales is that fake trees look so much more realistic today, when compared to the real trees. “In the old days, you could tell right away they were fake, with branches that hooked on,” Bischoff said. “Today they look great.”

However Bischoff failed to take the slowing U.S. economy into account for this Christmas:

The price range for many of these trees has become more economical, under $100 in some cases. “The truth is that money is tight, and people realize Christmas trees are a luxury,” says Richard Laermer, author of “2011: Trendspotting.”

“If they can buy one this year and use it next year, why not?” he says.

Balsam Hill, one of the nation’s premiere fake-tree manufacturers, has one tree that sells for $89, but price points can go into the thousands as well.

In this economy, however, the lower-priced trees are selling better than in the past.

One Balsam Hill tree that’s selling well is a more moderately priced 6.5-foot "Blue Spruce" for $279. This year, it’s the second most popular tree sold by the company, says company spokeswoman Caroline Tuan. Last year, the Spruce didn’t even make the top five.

When you consider that it costs around $100 to purchase a live tree, then the $100 fake tree is a bargain, considering the year-after-year savings of not continuously purchasing a real Christmas tree for as long as you use the fake tree. And with this U.S. economy slowing, and people spending less on their Christmas shopping, it doesn't surprise me that more Americans are looking at the fake trees this year. But the time to purchase fake Christmas trees isn't before Christmas--it is after Christmas, when the retailers drop the prices to move their fake-tree inventory off their shelves.

Then again, the Christmas war between fake trees and real trees will continue on.

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