It’s a Christmas haul that appeared just in the St. Nick of time. Over 1,700 trees have arrived at Plantation Garden Centre in Mount Pleasant in northwest Calgary to meet rising demand.
Owner Colin Atter says it was almost a forgone conclusion he wouldn’t have any to sell this year.
“There is a huge tree shortage, its North America-wide.” Atter said. “Only about two months ago I had zero trees on order. It all came together at the last second, a little bit of luck, a little bit of timing. I was able to pull some trees out of Quebec.”
Atter says his customers are aware of the problem and he’s already sold hundreds of trees in the first weekend alone. Customer Kathy Ruhe says she wasn’t going to be shut out in her hunt for a real tree.
“I did hear a little bit about that. But we came here, I saw some prices around, I saw they were a bit more than last year, so we came here, so we wanted to support local and saw a nice little tree actually for quite a bit less than we thought.”
Prices at the northwest store are the same as last year Atter says, despite a huge increase in what he had to pay to get the trees.
“Probably 20 per cent, easily.”
He hopes to make up the cost in volume.
Spruce It Up Garden Centre along Highway 2A in southwest Calgary is trying a different method to keep costs down and find enough trees to satisfy customers.
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“For us, we have switched to a Western Canadian supplier. We do the Douglas fir and the Jack pine,” explained owner Meryl Coombs.
“We don’t have any issue with supply. It’s just when you get down east, the Fraser firs, the Balsam firs, you are competing with the U.S. market.”
Both vendors say trees are at least double the price in the United States as they are in Canada. The demand is enticing farmers to head south to increase their profit.
Atter says there is another problem: fewer farmers are even bothering with trees anymore.
“The family farm is going away. The younger kids don’t want to have anything to do with growing Christmas trees. It’s a 10-to-15-year turnaround for a tree.”
He says having a real tree may be a real dilemma for years go come.