In October, Horticulture Week reported that the Christmas tree industry was expecting an increase in cheap imports this season, with prices of 6ft Nordman falling at a wholesale level as a result and retail prices in outlets such as Aldi and JTF falling below £20.
Wyevale Garden Centre said: "Recent news has highlighted how British Christmas tree-growers are warning customers about the arrival of cheap continental trees. Due to a Christmas tree drought in the UK seven years ago, tens of thousands of trees were planted in Denmark and Germany which has now led to a huge import of trees with prices that undercut the home-grown market. The low quality means that larger volumes are being pushed through ungraded which can appeal to retailers who are more focussed on price than quality.
Wyevale Garden Centres plant buyer David Mitchell estimates a 10 -11 per cent increase in Christmas tree sales turnover this year - and has slammed the quality of imports.
He said: "Value-led trees needn’t be of low quality, should you purchase a British tree, you can still buy a minimalistic tree (like our Swedish Style Nordmann) and yet notice the quality is far superior to that of most other continental European imported trees. I think it is worth going the extra mile to ensure quality standards and I am very much involved with the whole life cycle of a British tree, which gets pruned 20 times in the course of its life, so we class them as artisan products as there is real craftsmanship in how they are pruned. I visit the tree growing farm three times a year to witness the pruning and the methodical care taken to ensure they are of the highest quality. There should be no reason that any of our trees lose their quality, so our guarantee to customers is that if they aren’t happy with the quality than Wyevale Garden Centres will replace it with a new one up until Christmas Eve for free.
"There is usually a peak for Christmas trees around the first week of December, so our Real Trees Weekend which begins on the 5th December and again the weekend of the 12 December will offer a range of in-centre activities including a complete tour of our diverse range of real British Isle trees so they understand what might work for them. We regard purchasing a Christmas tree a real British tradition and they come for the experience as well as the quality.
"Some shoppers leave it very late, even up to Christmas Eve before buying their trees, so we cater for a wide range to suit all tastes and shopping patterns."
He said: "In response to demand from particular regional areas, we have brought back the Norway Spruce tree as it smells good and represents the classic idea of a Christmas tree from childhood. We feel the Norway Spruce are great for creating a sense of nostalgia as shoppers are influenced by the designs that remind them of growing up. We also understand customers tastes vary to suit their needs so we understand that in urban areas with smaller spaces, customers tend to go for the smaller sizes of our Nordmann Fir (from £19.99), and at the same time our larger Swedish style Nordmann Fir’s were a huge success last year, especially in more value orientated centres, as customers can get a bigger tree for less and in a different style – but we are also seeing great interest in our XXL trees which show off real height of 4 metres for £300+."
Estimates suggest some 6m real trees will sell this season, with about 4.5m British Isles-grown.
Wyevale also says poinsettia sales peak on Christmas Eve. It grows 30,000 a year at its Woodlands centre.