Blunt needles that stay on the tree longer after cutting make the Nordmann fir the preferred natural tree for Christmas celebrations. A key part of the festive industrial complex, millions of Nordmanns will decorate British homes this year, along with spikier tannenbaums more inclined to shed needles in bucketloads.
Behind the tinsel and baubles are economics that could spell “bah humbug” for penny-counting Scrooges. Shortages — there do seem to be some in the US — would be gladder tidings for growers and distributors.
Many UK consumers bought early to bring forward Christmas cheer. But fears of a Nordmann stock-out crisis appear overblown.
Christmas tree supply involves mismatched timings. Around a decade has to elapse for a seed to grow into a six-foot tree. Then there is a four-week rush each year to get the harvest into shops. Christmas trees follow the classic “pork cycle” of agricultural economics; high prices attract new entrants who drive prices lower.
Brexiters should be delighted to learn Britain is largely self-sufficient in Christmas trees. If Danish trees get stuck in congested UK ports, firs from Scotland and Northern England take up the slack.
Moreover, suppliers say reported demand of 10m trees this year is exaggerated. The real figure should be closer to 6m, they estimate. Surveys identify a real tree in every fifth UK home. Total sales would be close to £250m annually at an average selling price of £40.
It is true more households may buy trees this year. And independent retailers, including likely lads operating from street corners, have never been afraid of applying surge pricing.
But spikes are cushioned by big retail chains, whose brands would be hurt by profiteering. Supermarkets and large garden centres make up about five-sixths of all sales. Gross margins are around 30 per cent and 50 per cent respectively.
Consumers pay up to participate in a winter tradition rooted in Northern Europe’s pagan past. An evergreen reminder that life continues even in hostile conditions will be particularly relevant this year.
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Letter in response to this column:
A Christian Christmas tree in Baghdad / From Dr Sadiq Hussain, Blackpool, UK