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'Real' Christmas Tree Sales on the Decline

November 23, 2004

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The Tradition of the Christmas Tree
Current Events

The number of "real" Christmas trees in American homes has taken a big dive in recent years, with owners of "fake" trees increasing by 33 percent since 1999 and 40 percent over the last decade, according to news reports. A recent survey concluded that 23.4 million American homes had live Christmas trees, compared to 50.6 million homes with "fake," or artificial trees. The number of homes without any kind of Christmas tree numbered 21.7 million.

Christmas tree growers are understandably alarmed and are working overtime to get more Americans back in the real-tree fold. One promotion making the rounds now is in connection with the new animated film The Polar Express. Viewers can bring a ticket stub for the movie to growers in certain parts of the country and walk away with a free tree. Other promotions will come later, as the holiday nears.

The main obstacles to the continued purchase of real trees seem to be price and mess. An artificial tree can be used year after year and has to be paid for only once. More and more artificial trees are being made to look exactly like real trees, and many come with decorations already attached. For American families that increasingly have less and less time, this is a welcome addition and, in many cases, the deal-maker in the debate over whether to buy a real tree or a fake one. A real tree can cost a good deal of money, depending on its size; also, Americans must dispose of the trees every year and buy new ones the following year. Many people are discovering that artificial trees "pay for themselves."

Then there's the mess. Real trees are, well, real. They have needles, in many cases, and needles fall off. Improper care of needles and the trees themselves can result in fire hazards as well, as an unwatered tree and an ever-growing pile of needles can dry out and need only a spark to start a fire. Every year, many Americans report house fires started in part because of a dry Christmas tree. The artificial tree, which gets taken apart and put back in a box, seems more appealing to many people, especially when it comes to dispose of a real tree: What do you do with it? Do the garbage collectors pick it up? Should you plant it in the back yard? Many people don't want what they see as a hassle and so choose the tree in the box over the tree in the yard.

As the Christmas season gets into full swing, expect to see more and more promotions urging consumers to buy real trees for the holiday.

Graphics courtesy of ClipArt.com

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