Christmas tree vendors report strong sales vs. artificial counterparts

Brad Fleming of Fleming Landscaping in Elderton bundles a Fraser Fir on his family's tree farm near Route 210 in Elderton on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. Louis B.
Brad Fleming of Fleming Landscaping in Elderton bundles a Fraser Fir on his family's tree farm near Route 210 in Elderton on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. Louis B.
Photo by Ruediger | Leader Times
| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 1:07 a.m.

While shopping days before Christmas fly off the calendar, 'tis still the season to pick up a tree.

Local tree farmers are reporting strong sales since Thanksgiving with two more weekends to go before the big day.

“Business has been good,” said Brad Fleming, co-owner of Glenn Fleming Landscaping in Elderton. “The first two weekends of the month are probably the busiest, but I think this one will probably be busy, too.”

Fleming's family has been in the Christmas tree business since his grandfather started selling them in the '60s. Although the majority of the family's 325-acre farm is dedicated to other crops, Fleming said Christmas tree sales are consistently successful.

“We always seem to do all right,” he said. “Every year, we lose a few customers but we gain a few more.”

In fact, Fleming believes the past couple of years have been particularly profitable for area tree sellers.

“I think retail sales have actually been on an upswing,” he said. “I'm not sure if it's part of the green movement or if something is making people move away from artificial trees, but I do think we're seeing more families come for the choose-and-cut trees.”

Just like toys and Twitter, different brands of Christmas trees are subject to trending. Gregg Van Horn, president of the Indiana County Christmas Tree Growers Association and owner of Gregg Van Horn's Tree Farm in Creekside, said there's one clear favorite this year.

“The Fraser fir is the most popular,” Van Horn said. “They're just really good trees. When I first started selling trees out of my yard 12 years ago, 80 percent of my sales were blue spruce. Then the Douglas fir got to be in demand about six or seven years ago. But now everyone seems to want the Fraser fir.”

Fleming said there's science behind the popularity of firs but intangibles often play a role in buyers' decisions.

“Both the Fraser fir and Douglas fir have good needle retention,” he said. “So if people want to leave them up for an extended period of time, those are what they tend to put up. But it seems like there's just something about the Fraser fir and Douglas fir. If you get one, it kind of sticks with you and you get one every year after that.”

If you still don't have a tree, don't worry: You're not alone. Fleming and Van Horn said they always see steady sales right down to the wire.

“We have people who still make it a tradition to come out on Christmas Eve,” Fleming said with a slight chuckle. “But that's the last day we're open. If you don't have your tree by Christmas morning, you're not gonna get it from us.”

Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or tkaran@tribweb.com.

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