By Brandon Martin
Even through tough economic times, John Ayers, owner of the Collinsville Farm Market, has helped keep the holiday tradition of Christmas Tree decorating alive.
The self-described “soft-heart” said his market has been selling trees for almost 20 years across two different locations, but he doesn’t expect to make any profit from the supply this year.
Typically, Ayers said he gets his supply from a tree farm in Ashe County, N.C.
“The normal suppliers I went to informed me that they were in really short supply,” he said. “I had to really haggle with them to be able to still sell them this year. I went back and forward with the guy for about two weeks, because he only had about 10-15 tractor trailers of trees left, but he eventually let me buy some.”
Due to the short supply, Ayers said the prices were higher than in years past. He said prices increased anywhere from $3 to $10 per tree, based on the size.
However, Ayers said he didn’t pass that cost on to customers. Although he paid more for his supply, he is selling the tress at their normal prices of around $40-85, based on tree size.
“I guess I’m kind of a soft heart,” Ayers said. “These are tough economic times and people still want that special part of the holiday where the family sits down and decorates the tree. I’m glad I can still provide that for some folks, even though I don’t expect we will make a dime from selling the trees. It’s something that I really enjoy doing and it creates a lively spirit at the market around the holidays.”
Ayers said business was “about normal for the first couple of weeks” of selling trees this year. The pace hasn’t held through the holiday season, but “unfortunately, that’s just a sign of the times,” he said.
The Collinsville Farmers Market is located at 3585 Virginia Ave and Ayers said its location has helped draw the attention of some travelers before they enter U.S. 220.
“Some will come and look at the trees and decorations before they start checking out some of the other produce items we have like fruit, vegetables, nuts and preserves,” he said. “So, if nothing else, having the trees has helped grab the attention of people to our other items over the years and that’s still happening today.”
The season normally provides a boom in sales, according to Ayers.
“There is often an uptick between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” he said, attributing the lack of large gatherings as a reason for the lull this year.
“We often see a lot of churches having large gathering events during the holidays because a lot of people come back home. They haven’t really been able to do that this year,” Ayers said. “I’d say with just that amount of business alone, sales have dropped close to 35 or 40 percent. What can you do though? It’s tough times and people are hurting.”
Tree suppliers haven’t been feeling as much of a financial strain. According to a survey of retailers done by Evercore ISI, the figures for tree sales are up 29 percent this year, as reported by CNBC.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, there are approximately 25-30 million traditional Christmas trees sold in the country each year. About 15,000 farms grow trees in the U.S., and the industry employs more than 100,000 full-time and part-time workers.
With fewer gatherings and more individual celebrations, the demand for trees has increased in some areas to meet the need.
Citing stress over the coronavirus, Doug Hundley, seasonal spokesman for the association said,“people have the time at home this year. They’re traveling less, of course, so they’re at home and they really want something to spark their mood.”