Sales of Christmas trees could shoot up this season

Saturday, November 24, 2001

Susan Sheets of Cape Gir-ardeau won't put an artificial Christmas tree in her home.

"It has to smell like Christmas in my house," she said after spending $120 for two spruce trees Friday at Kinder's tree lot on Kingshighway.

David Kinder, who owns the tree lot, said real trees are a holiday tradition. He and others who sell Christmas trees predict sales could be up this year.

The National Christmas Tree Association, based in St. Louis, estimates that Americans will buy about 35 million spruces, firs and pines this year, a 9-percent increase over a year ago.

Christmas tree farmers and tree-lot operators say sales could be up as more Americans seek comfort in old-fashioned traditions to cope with the tragedies of terrorism.

"The reduced travel and increase in spirituality and family activities in American will prompt more consumers to choose a real Christmas tree this year," said Jim Corliss, president of the National Christmas Tree Association and a tree farmer in Maine.

Corliss expects at least 200,000 more real Christmas trees will be sold this year than last. A majority of Americans display artificial trees. But the percentage displaying real trees could climb to 45 percent, up from 39 percent a year ago, he said.

Kinder said Americans are seeking to get past the national tragedy. "I guess they are just trying to get in a better spirit."

'We go by smell'

But Friday's tree buyers in Cape Girardeau credited tradition, not terrorist attacks. All said they like the smell of real trees.

Gary Deroche and his 9-year-old stepdaughter debated the merits of balsam firs from Nova Scotia as they shopped Friday for the perfect Christmas tree.

In the end, they chose a $20 tree that was over 6 feet tall and tied it atop their van for the trip home to Jackson, Mo.

"She and I pick one out every year," he said as he and his stepdaughter, Shanele Frech, looked over the trees in the Evening Optimist Club lot at Town Plaza in Cape Girardeau. "We go by smell."

A few blocks away, Kinder has nearly 1,000 Michigan-grown trees of all varieties on his lot. The trees range in height from 3 feet to 15 feet.

Prices run from as little as $15 to as much as $150. The latter price is for a 15-foot-tall Douglas fir, which takes 30 years to reach such a height.

Scotch pine cost less because they grow much faster, up to a foot a year, he said.

"This will probably be enough. Last year, I had 20 left," said Kinder, who operates the biggest tree lot in Cape Girardeau.

Kinder opened the lot on Monday. He said sales are already ahead of last year even with the unseasonably warm weather.

Kenny Seabaugh of Jackson isn't surprised real trees are selling well.

"It goes back to tradition," he said as he shopped for three trees at Kinder's lot. "I used to go out and cut my own trees."

Joannie Smith sells Appalachian Mountain Fraser firs from North Carolina at her Yule Log Cabin store near Commerce, Mo.

"They're just gorgeous this year," she said. Smith said her prices are the same as last year. "They start at $39 and go up," she said.

Smith said Christmas shoppers have flocked to her Christmas gifts and holiday decorations store. "We are just shocked at how well sales are going," she said.

335-6611, extension 123

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