The definition of the word “shortage”:
“A state or situation in which something needed cannot be obtained in sufficient amounts”
If you look at the last few holiday seasons, “Christmas Tree Shortage” was one of the hottest phrases used in media reports and all over internet searches. At the same time, you had the National Christmas Tree Promotion Board, leaders of the Christmas tree industry, defending their stance that there was not a tree shortage. This is the first line from the Board’s October release in 2021:
“Despite challenges this year, if shoppers are flexible they can expect to go home with a real Christmas tree.”
In the Austin metro area, whether there is a national shortage or not, it feels like there has been. There are some very important factors that contribute to this feeling, and pushing families toward artificial Christmas trees.
As I said in the first blog there are a ton of things I wished I would have know before getting into the Christmas tree industry.
Brungot Farms was started in Cedar Park on Thanksgiving 2014. When it was started, there were a plethora of locations available for trees in the area: multiple Lowes’, Home Depots, Walmart's, Sam’s Club, Costco and Tractor Supply. They were all carrying Christmas trees.
In addition to the “big box retailers”, there were several garden centers including: Round Rock Gardens, Hill Country Water Gardens, and the Red Barn. To quote Billy Mays, “but wait, there’s still more”!
There were retail live Christmas tree lots everywhere, such as Papa Noel and Montana Fresh. You have non-profit fundraisers like the Boy Scouts, Optometrist Club, Round Rock Sertoma, and so many others.
I’m still not done! If you wanted to cut down your own Christmas tree, you just had to make the trip to Elgin and visit either the Elgin Christmas Tree Farm or Evergreen Christmas Tree Farm.
All that to say, back in 2014, there was an overabundance of places to purchase real Christmas trees. Plus, Christmas tree wholesale farms around the country were still trying to recover from the 2008 financial bust and were practically begging us to take trees - the prices were LOW. We were able to wait until the middle of October to order trees, only a 25% deposit was required, and the final payment didn’t have to be made until well after sales were complete.
Now let’s fast forward to 2022. Since 2014, the population of the Austin metro area has increased by about 553,000 people. People have moved here from all over the country and internationally. Not to mention the people that are born here or have grown up and moved into their own homes.
In the 2020 census, there were 796,315 households in the Austin area. In 2014, that number was around 750,000. In 2021, there were nearly 19,000 homes built, so I would estimate that there are about 830,000 homes in the Austin metro area (not including the apartment complexes and condos that have gone up as well).
Now let's circle back to the Christmas tree supply. On average, about 16% of households put up a real Christmas tree. With about 830,000 homes in the Austin metro area, that means you're talking about a need of ~133,000 real Christmas trees in the Austin market to be adequately supplied for the holiday season.
I promise you that there are not that many real trees here this year.
Many of the places that used to supply trees have gone out of business or have stopped bringing in pre-cut trees, such as at Elgin Christmas Tree farm (which has also reduced the number of trees that they’re growing and selling by about 40%).
We have worked really hard to increase the amount of trees that we bring in, but it’s been extremely tough. There are 2 major reasons for this: availability of trees at wholesale farms and cost (more about this another time).
The 2008 Financial crisis has been the reason for the Christmas tree industries shortage for years. Hearing this year after year creates doubt. Here’s a quick understanding of why it's the issue.
The time it takes to grow Christmas tree seedlings is 2-5 years, which gets them to 12-18 inches high. From there, when they are planted in the field the average farm growth is about 12 inches a year. If you want an 8-9 foot Christmas tree, you're talking 9 to 12 years in the growing process. Farms didn’t just take a hit in 2008. It took 3-4 years to get things back to semi-normal operations.
One other issue that has contributed to the shortage in the Austin area is the way that big box retailers care for and present their trees. There are rarely any tents set up and minimal watering. Bright, sunny days in the garden center at Home Depot are great for your flowers; not so much for Christmas trees that are used to cool mountain air. This results in the trees getting baked and sunburned and the customers don’t want them.
The most important thing to remember though, is something that tends to be left out of all of this: families putting up the perfect Christmas tree is many times about tradition. There are multiple parts of these traditions that are important. It’s the who, what, when, where, and how questions that get answered each and every year, by each and every family or person.
These are just some of the reasons that the Brungot Farms Christmas Pre-Sale has become so popular. We have thousands of people on our list and they don’t want the stress of trying to find a real Christmas tree. They can come pick it up or, like hundreds of customers, arrange to have it delivered to their home and set up. Additionally, if you buy a tree from Brungot Farms, you can be sure that we have cared for that tree as if we were bringing it into our own house. We make holiday Christmas tree shopping easy to allow families to spend their time focusing on the traditions that they cherish every year.