FARGO — For Christmas tree vendors in the Fargo-Moorhead area, the holiday came much earlier than usual in 2020.
Christmas tree sales have spiked nationwide, and Fargo has been no exception with lots reporting quicker-than-usual selling seasons.
Trina Kalm of Hildebrant Farm in West Fargo said that the farm had its "fastest season ever" with sales beginning on Black Friday and wrapping up a week later on Dec. 4. A typical season, Kalm said, would conclude around Dec. 15, however her and her sister's 200 Fraser and Balsam firs trees, 100 wreaths and centerpieces sold out in record time.
Kalm attributes the quick season to the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited travel for many families nationwide.
"I think a lot of people didn't travel or go to their family's for Thanksgiving, so Friday was extra busy," she said.
The pandemic, Kalm hoped, also drove to consumers to patronize small businesses in the area.
"I think people want to go to a smaller shop," she said. "I think a lot of people are trying to shop local and support small businesses."
Doug Hundley, a spokesman for the National Christmas Tree Association, also believed COVID-19 drove the uptick in sales.
"There may be, and probably is, more homes putting up a Christmas tree, especially kids in their 20s and 30s that would normally go home for Christmas," he said. "They're not going home for Christmas because they don't want to take COVID-19 home to their families. They are perhaps boosting the sales by staying where they are and getting a tree for the first time."
The National Christmas Tree Association consists of over 15,000 small family farms. Based on conversations with retailers and growers, Hundley said that increased demand has been a common theme, though he won't have exact figures on sales until the association conducts its annual consumer survey through Harris Interactive in January.
"We thought maybe we were just front-loading sales, but it's really remained rather good right on through," Hundley said of the early rush to tree lots.
Nick Wolcyn said that Cambridge, Minn.-based Wolcyn Tree Farms saw the rapid sales coming.
"The demand was high to begin with," Wolcyn said. "We knew going into the season that inventory was tight."
Wolcyn Tree Farms offers Christmas trees both for wholesale and retail, including at its own tree lot in Fargo and for local organizations such as the Boy Scouts and Knights of Columbus. Beyond the area, Wolcyn's trees are sold as far south as Memphis and as far west as Colorado Springs. The farm is Minnesota's largest Christmas tree grower, some years cutting 50,000 trees, though this year's numbers were around 40,000.
Wolcyn saw the writing on the walls when the country's staple tree-growing states were reporting lower-than-usual inventory. North Carolina, which trailed only Oregon in Christmas tree production on the United States Department of Agriculture's 2017 Census of Agriculture, was tight on trees, he said.
Inventories across the country prompted calls for trees from as far away as Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and Tennessee, Wolcyn explained.
"If they're calling all the way up to Minnesota, they’re having a hard time locating trees," he remarked.
Wolcyn's Fargo lot sold out in 16 days, an unusually short season. The lot is typically open for three weeks, he said. Like Kalm, Wolcyn said the pandemic likely had a hand in the high demand.
"With the coronavirus and the shutdown going off and on, people were just antsy to get out and take part in a family activity," he said.
Weather also played a role as temperatures stayed relatively warm for Thanksgiving weekend.
"We had cold weather early, which got people thinking about Christmas, but then it was warm enough during the Thanksgiving weekend that people could still go out," Wolcyn said.
Whether or not the trend of early tree-buying sticks around remains to be seen, though signs seem to indicate it will.
"People are wanting to celebrate Christmas earlier and earlier," Wolcyn said.
Hundley is optimistic that millennials who bought their first real Christmas trees will continue to do so in the future. Young families have a "green temperament," he said, meaning they'll value the fact that real trees can be mulched or used in wildlife habitats and, unlike artificial ones, are not made of non-biodegradable plastics and metals imported from China.
"We're very encouraged that it appears people like that are going towards a real tree," he added. "We hope that they'll stay with a real tree, but time will tell."
Regardless, Hundley is glad Christmas trees could provide a bright spot in what's been a dreary year.
"If real tree sales are helping people to deal with the stresses and strains of 2020, perhaps the COVID blues, we're thrilled that we can be part of that," he said.