Alton Garden Centre director and Tillington Group buyer Andy Bunker said retail prices are "being driven down by the likes of Ikea, Bunnings/Homebase and The Range, with 5-6ft trees retailing at £20-£25. But they are what they are - cheap and cheerful, though nevertheless there's a market for them. There's no doubt for the best 6ft trees there's a £50 ceiling."
Three years ago first-grade 6ft Nordman wholesale prices were £22-£23 but fell to £20 in 2015. Bunker said first-grade wholesale and retail prices will stay the same this year. Cheap wholesale offers usually include some lower-grade trees, he added.
Cadeby Tree Trust's Andy Saunt said: "The biggest impact this year is the pound versus the euro, so your pound is not buying as much and a lot of people are holding off ordering from the continent to see if prices will drop. There's an awful lot more trees available in the UK this year." But there will be fewer imports because of price, he added.
Four Oaks Trade Show had 31 Christmas tree growers exhibiting, up from the record 28 in 2015. Saunt said: "UK growers will do better this year. It's good for the industry if we're selling more British trees. A lot of garden centre buyers are looking around." He said 6ft Nordman wholesale prices have dropped slightly to £19.75-£22.50 depending on quantity and delivery with him because there are more UK trees available and trees are looking healthy after a "good growing year".
Christopher Hood of Needlefresh said: "British growers are profiting from them being more competitive off the back of the exchange rate. There's a lot of nervousness on the continent about quoting prices." But he said many continental growers cannot do without the UK market.
"Retailers have been bullish on ordering," and prices are "static" on British trees at wholesale and retail level. "The volume of grade-one retail trees will be no bigger than last year. The confusion is that's against a total increase in tree volume. There will be plenty of cheap trees to be had in lay-bys and pop-up retailers. You decide what you want in your front room and if the tree is sparse, badly shaped and thin on top then you will find it hard to decorate."
Fillingham Christmas Trees owner William Rose said: "More English trees will be sold because of the exchange rate because for most people there's a 10 per cent differential. It's the first time we've shown at Four Oaks. There's a lot more people coming to us because people like the idea of having UK trees." He added that his prices have not moved, saying: "People forget the price but remember the quality". Rose agreed with Bents Garden & Home's assessment that Fraser firs are in demand but hard to find.
Kasper Graven of Denmark-based Kortegaard, which supplies Danish, Scottish and other EU- sourced trees to UK garden centres, said: "We have already set prices for 2016 and we are maintaining them regardless of the current situation. The price level is the same as in 2015." He added that across Europe there are "too many lower-quality trees with lower prices and not enough higher-quality trees that have maintained a steady price level."