Early trees pose market threat

Grower cites garden centre pressure for early supply of Christmas trees and risk of needle drop.

Garden centres demanding trees earlier and earlier could damage public confidence in the market, Needlefresh managing director Christopher Hood has said.

"Unless retailers accept that they can't have their trees until the end of November, we run the risk of spoiling the industry as trees become less saleable as the climate gets warmer," he said. Needlefresh wholesales 500,000 trees a year.

"Retailer A says it wants trees on 14 November because retailer B has them then. There has to be greater attention to resisting commercial pressures to cut trees very early to facilitate retailer demand to have trees on sale when there is little else going on in the garden centre."

Eden Park is part of the Green Team Group, the largest grower and supplier of Christmas trees in Europe. Eden Park supplies 400,000 trees to garden centres and other retailers in the UK, while Scottish plantations bring another 250,000 to the wholesale market.

Office manager Martin Coward said the 2011 season beat 2010 and 2009 for sales.

But he repeated the warning that retailers are demanding trees too early, which can lead to needle drop after a dry season and mild autumn.

"Unfortunately it is a policy of major retailers to ensure they have trees before their competitors, making the selling season much earlier.

"We have to look at how we display the trees and we'll recommend that everything moves back a week to mid November, with the bulk going in at the end of November and the first week in December because customers won't buy until then."

Coward said Polhill Garden Centre in Kent demonstrated good practice by taking trees out of their nets and displaying them outside, ideally with an irrigation system used overnight.

See Garden Retail January/February, out 20 January.


5% - Percentage increase in Christmas tree sales by the Garden Centre Group in 2011

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