Shipping issues are impacting the price and supply of popular Christmas trees this holiday season.
The Fredericksburg Host Lions Club expects its order of fresh Fraser firs to arrive Saturday morning at the groups’ Plank Road sales lot, but customers can expect to pay a little more because of shipping costs.
“For the first time ever, our grower is charging us for freight,” said Lions Club representative Ken Lapin. “He has forever forgiven the charges because we’re a nonprofit, but the owner said he cannot afford to offer the free service this year.”
Lapin, whose organization has sold Christmas trees in Fredericksburg for the past 30 years, said the freight fee the Lions have to pay this year is about $1,500. The long-lasting fragrant trees known for retaining their needles well after harvest will be available in multiple sizes, with costs ranging from $60 to $120. Lapin said a freshly cut 6–7 foot Fraser fir, which is a popular size, will cost $75 this year, up $5 from 2020.
“We may not be the cheapest trees in town, but all of our profits go back to the community,” said Lapin, who said Christmas tree sale proceeds focus on community sight, hearing and hunger concerns, as well as youth activities.
And cost isn’t the only concern. The southwestern Virginia grower, located about 300 miles southwest of Fredericksburg, told the Lions they may not receive their full order of 500 trees.
“He has warned us that we might get less than we asked for,” said Lapin.
While the Lions Club sets up its site at the parking lot of the Big Lots department store at Fredericksburg’s Greenbrier Shopping Center this weekend, members of the Knights of Columbus’ Fredericksburg Council 4034 will be doing the same at St. Mary Catholic Church in the city.
“Our busiest day tends to be Saturday,” said the Knights’ Tim Fleming, whose group has been selling trees in a small lot behind the church at 1009 Stafford Ave. for the last 20 years.
Fleming said his tree prices also went up slightly this year to help cover the same shipping fees the Lions must pay. Like the Lions, the Knights will also charge $75 for a 6-7 foot Fraser fir and use their sales proceeds to assist local community charities throughout the year.
“About 200 Fraser firs are expected this Saturday morning,” said Fleming. “As soon as we can get them on the racks, we’ll start selling them.”
Calls to Fredericksburg area Lowe’s and Home Depot stores revealed 6- to 7-foot Fraser firs were up about $10 over last year’s price. A tree of this size at either location is about $60, while the Meadows Farms nursery chain is selling the same size tree for $89.
Ron Meadows, vice president of Meadows Farms, said limited supplies of Fraser firs from his usual supplier in North Carolina forced him to buy trees in Oregon and Canada.
“I had to go out of bounds to get trees this year,” he said.
Meadows said his large order of trees for the 18 stores he oversees in the region was still cut by about 30 percent. In addition to paying more for the trees themselves, Meadows also had to pay a considerable amount to get the product shipped to Virginia.
“Freight is out of control,” Meadows said. “The shipping cost and expense is about 60 percent higher this year than last year.”
Tree shoppers who decide to go the artificial route instead won’t find significant relief there. Industry experts warn that shipments of those trees have also been delayed due to driver shortages and supply chain issues and that costs are ranging from 10 percent to 30 percent higher than last year.
“Some of the major retailers say they have about 43 percent of their inventory right now when it should be closer to 70 percent at this time of the year,” said Jami Warner, executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association.
James Scott Baron: