The six-million tree market peaked in 2011-12 and is set to retain sales and prices at up to £50 for a 6ft Nordman at garden centres this year. But the lower end of the market is set to be flooded with cheap trees. The situation began in 2014 and is set to remain for two or three years.
British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) committee member and Snowbird owner Adrian Morgan said quality tree volumes will go up "slightly" and across Europe there will be "quite large numbers of substandard trees" that could be offered at "fairly low prices".
He said most garden centres will maintain prices and quality, but added: "There's no doubt there's almost a dichotomy in the market. There's been a strong market in the last five or six years and a decline in the number of lay-by opportunist sellers. I hope we don't see a return to that. They don't do the industry any good. But the cheaper trees might find a home in that market."
One garden centre chain has switched to a Danish supplier. Morgan said: "It's not unusual for European supermarkets to offer trees at EUR20, but the quality is reflected in the price. Excess growth in 2014 led to gappy tops in 2015 and they are coming on the market now. The public don't want a big gap but last year's long leader produced a big gap this year." He said planting of seedlings is "slightly down, reflecting the surplus in the marketplace".
Danish young-tree seller Peter Jensen said planting has dropped 20 per cent but growers should take advantage of oversupply now because the market moves in cycles. He said Ikea is a strong seller on the continent, undercutting garden centres. Ikea in the UK offers a £20 voucher with sales of a £25 tree.
This year's BCTGA winners are Andrew Ingram from Christmas Tree Common for a lasiocarpa fir and Hans Alexander from Santa Fir Christmas Tree Farm for champion wreath. He was runner-up in the champion tree category. The winners' trees and wreaths will be put up at 10 Downing Street this Christmas.