Online Christmas Tree Sales Soaring

The annual ritual of heading to the local Christmas tree lot or cut-it-down-yourself farm is giving way to the age of the internet and online buying.   Even Rick Dungey, a spokesman for the National Christmas Tree Association, has joined the trend, saying “I point and click and it shows up on my front door.  For me, it’s a convenience.”

Retailers such as Target and Costco are jumping on the bandwagon, offering fresh trees online for the first time.  According to Target spokeswoman Jill Hornbacher, the online sales are seen as a convenience, particularly for people who live in cities.  Chub Lake Tree Farm, a northern Minnesota family farm, notes that 10 percent of their sales are now made online.  “It started by customer demand and we saw a niche there,” said Jim Whorton, who owns the farm.  “We have customers who’ve moved away to Texas or Nebraska or to the Twin Cities, or who like our trees and want to ship a fresh one to their families.”

Although tracking the number of Christmas tree sales is virtually impossible, a Harris Interactive poll shows that approximately three percent of the 28 to 30 million farm-grown trees are now sold online.  Dungey believes that having Target’s broad consumer reach is a welcome way to sell trees.  “It signals that retailers recognize that not all consumers are equal.  Whether you’re a big-box or a specialty store or a farm itself, good retailers realize they want a broad array of buyers.  Not everyone wants to buy a tree the same way,” Dungey said.

Target’s success with online Christmas tree sales demonstrates how competitive the holidays have become, according to Marshall Cohen, chief retail analyst with NPD Group.  “Is it bad?  Does it change the tradition of the holiday?  Absolutely yes.  But guess what?  That’s not the retailer’s issue.  The retailer’s job is to try to make your life better so you’ll spend more money.  If you want to go and cut a tree down, go ahead.”