Last year was a stable one according to growers and wholesalers despite garden centres having seen Christmas tree sales volumes fall over the past 10 years.
Needlefresh managing director Chris Hood said prices and volumes were "static". There was a slight shortage of 2m-plus trees and Needlefresh has seen a "marked increase" in pot-grown trees, he added.
"People who buy a real tree are loyal to buying a real tree," said Hood. Multiples and supermarkets are selling "attractively priced but only small sizes so garden centres will do well selling 6-7ft trees because customers are not so price conscious".
British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) secretary Harry Brightwell said some members reported sales slightly up on 2012, but Ikea's £25 Nordmans with a £20 voucher may have impacted garden retailers. The average price for a 6ft Nordman was £48.
"Last year they were selling them for £1 at the end," said Hood. "In Britain customers are looking for a quality tree but on the continent they buy smaller, lighter, more inexpensive trees. Ikea buys a mixed-grade tree on price but the British customer is quite discerning and will pay more for a top-quality tree."
Ikea said it sources trees from sustainable forests in Denmark and Scotland. UK and Ireland sales manager Emily Birkin added: "Everybody should be able to afford a real tree. That's why we sell them for £25. We are able to achieve this price because of our large volumes."
Hood said the UK market is up to four-and-a-half million trees annually based on Which? magazine reports. The BCTGA has claimed as many as eight million sales.
Prices have plateaued after rising from 10 years ago when 80 per cent were Norway Spruce - now 80 per cent are Nordman - and poor profitability led to shortages and price rises as well as using the better-quality non-drop tree, Hood explained.
"At the farm gate, growers appear to be able to sell the same numbers and multiples are doing the same volumes." But street sales "have always been there and haven't really changed", he added.
Wholesalers have not seen an overall change in volumes this year but a three-to-five per cent drop in garden centre sales could have been possible but might have been masked by rises in returns from higher priced trees.
Weather helps growers but retailers note market decline despite a successful year
Harry Brightwell, secretary, British Christmas Tree Growers Association
"The weather was quite good until the last weekend before Christmas. The wet summer of 2012 and hot summer in 2013 helped trees look good and prices have held. Growers sold what they'd cut in similar numbers last year."
Andy Bunker, director, Alton Garden Centre
"The real-tree market has dropped between three and five per cent in overall volume annually for the past five years and we're beginning to feel the full effect of artificial trees."
Joel Beckman, managing director, North One/West Six Garden Centres
"We've had our best year ever with no wastage. We've had a bigger marketing push, lent on the local council about illegal traders and opened later on main selling days. We also had a greater selection. Pot-grown sales were up."