According to the Census of Agriculture, from 2002 to 2017 Christmas tree production fell by 30 percent as artificial trees grew in popularity. American growers now harvest fewer than 15 million trees annually, down from 21 million in the early 2000s. Meanwhile, sales of artificial trees have steadily risen thanks to their affordability and convenience. Not only are plastic Christmas trees clean and reusable, but they’re also considerably safer than real trees that can quickly catch fire with a single stray spark.
Consumer preferences for real or fake trees appears to be divided along demographic lines as well. A 2014 survey found that 44 percent of Christmas tree buyers in their 30s opted for a real one while only 16 percent of consumers 65 or older did the same. Researchers concluded that older consumers are less likely to visit Christmas tree farms since their children are grown up. Farmers hope that young parents will continue the tradition by taking their kids to pick out a genuine Christmas tree. “Many families want to have authentic experiences, do good things for the environment and know the story behind the products they buy,” said Tiim O’Connor of the National Christmas Tree Association. “Real trees match up completely with that; a fake tree made from PVC plastic in a Chinese factory does not.”
Of course, it can be difficult to convince consumers to buy real trees if they don’t want to buy Christmas trees at all. In 1989, 90 percent of American households put up a Christmas tree. By 2018, that number dropped to 76 percent. So while sales of artificial trees continue to outpace sales of real trees, the market as a whole could be trending downwards.
- Why do today’s consumers increasingly prefer to buy artificial Christmas trees rather than real trees?
- Why are younger consumers more likely to buy real Christmas trees than older consumers?