2015 Christmas Tree Season highlights, 2016 forecast

2015 Christmas Tree Season highlights

Other than a few minor weather issues, and tighter supplies of trees,  our growers and retailers had praise for the 2015 Season in general. Truck availability was better than it has been for the last several years. Most of our retailers reported good sales. Noble fir continues to be the most popular tree. Nordmann fir popularity is still growing, and Douglas fir is holding it’s own.

By finally getting a higher dollar amount for their trees, our growers were able to put more money in to them increasing their overall quality. They again struggled to find adequate labor. This occasionally impacted their abilities to harvest and process their trees fast enough to keep up with the trucks as they rolled in, and completely fill your orders. In their efforts to attain profitability, various sizes, species, and grades suddenly disappeared from price lists. Some growers have lost hundreds if not thousands of seedlings to drier than normal weather. This affects their inventories, and will continue to do so for years ahead. We were able to outsource to get orders filled to a pretty good degree, but still noticed an undesirable increase in last minute surprise substitutions and/or out of stocks for some of our orders.

2016 forecast

Looking ahead, growers are expecting a further tightening of supplies, and also more price increases. Noble fir seed is currently in short supply, which will keep inventories tight for the next 8 to 10 years. Many of the growers in the Pacific Northwest have gone out of business. It appears that a good portion of their growing ground is being replaced with hazelnuts.

Fortunately, we have long standing, solid  relationships with some of the finest growers in the Pacific Northwest. More importantly, we are also lucky to have a customer base that consists of some of the finest retailers in California, many of which have been purchasing trees from us for 30 to 50 years.  This enables us to consistently provide our growers with similar orders every year,  for the most most part.  The farms can then forecast our needs, plant ahead, and continually supply us with the trees that you need. A big benefit of all this is a common level of trust and respect that is gained. This allows all parties to pull together as a team, and work towards the common goal of customer satisfaction.

Receiving your Christmas trees

   Delivery Process

Receiving your Christmas trees is normally a simple process. Getting them to you can be a different story, however. Several parties are involved, and a multitude of factors can arise and affect your delivery and order. It is essential that all parties know and follow guidelines in order to successfully transfer the possession of your trees from the farm, to the driver, and finally to you.  Bishop and Mathews has to account for all of the trees on the grower’s tally. Most of the time the farm tally matches up with the customer’s, give or take a tree or two, and everyone is happy. In the unfortunate case that a customer has a large discrepancy to claim, however; the customer must follow certain steps and procedures for us to be able to prove a discrepancy exists, we then present it to the farm, and get credits processed

From the farm to your lot

  • The farm loads your trees one at a time by placing them on a conveyor belt.  A different person tallies each tree as it passes by. In case of multiple receivers, farms use systems to differentiate or separate one order from another. Common dividing systems are plastic netting and plastic sheeting.  Some farms differentiate loads by painting dots on the butts of  one receiver’s trees, but not the other’s; instead of placing a barrier between them.
  •  Once the de-truck is loaded, the driver signs for the trees, and puts a seal on the doors. He has now  taken possession of these trees and is responsible for delivering them per farm tally to you.

Once you verify the seal is intact, the driver opens the doors. For a multitude of possible reasons, farms occasionally have to make last minute substitutions/changes to customers orders,  whether we like it or not. We agree to substitutions when we enter in to our Purchasing Agreement.  As a result the  trees that the farm loaded may not always exactly match up with what you ordered.

The farm/driver tally sheet reflects what the farm actually loaded for you and shows what the driver is responsible to deliver to you.  It is your responsibility to accept this tally sheet upon delivery and re-tally as you offload your order. By following this procedure, a tally is created which can be compared to the farm tally, to check for errors, shortages, substitutions,   mispicks, or mistags at the farm, or a previous stop.

Discrepancy Process

  • If discrepancies between the 2 tallies exist, call Bishop and Mathews immediately and alert the driver. The driver needs to double check, agree, and verify the discrepancy in writing.  This creates a reliable document that Bishop and Mathews can present to the farm if credit is requested. We will then also immediately get to work doing everything possible to make things right again for you and your customers.
    • We vigorously pursue our customer’s concerns with the growers. If you do not have this documentation, however, it can be difficult and often impossible for the farm to understand and agree with your request. In this case, we would be obligated to pay the farm per their tally for your trees, would bill you for the same, and create a conflict between us that would not resolve well, so lets not do that!!
  • The Customer should email or fax should Bishop and Mathews within 24 hours of delivery for credit due to damage, quality, grading, sizing discrepancies, etc.,   It must include photos of every tree, and show it’s defect. Credit requests will not considered at the end of the Season.
  •  Our purchasing agreement also provides guidelines  for us to follow so that we can successfully work together and achieve the common goal of you the customer’s satisfaction.

Ron Bishop

Bishop and Mathews Christmas Trees



Shippers affected by hours of service

Trucking Regulations

Trucking regulations have created several hurdles in the delivery process. Not only does weather and driver availability play a roll in getting your order to your delivery location; distance and drive times that a drivers are aloud to travel in a given day also must considered.  Here is an interesting article that provides insight as to some of the issues we currently face when planning the delivery of your Christmas tree order.

Shippers affected by hours of service


Big rise in Christmas tree sales

Good news from San Diego regarding an upturn in Christmas Tree sales


Sales of real Christmas trees got off to a brisk start this holiday season and continued at a healthy pace, increasing by the highest level since 2008, according to the following article from U-‘T San Diego.

Purchases made in the first week following Thanksgiving rose by 16 percent compared with the same week in 2012, then tapered off for an 8 percent increase overall during the 26-day stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Experts said the early rush was thanks to a shorter holiday season, which likely prompted consumers to buy their trees more quickly.

The newly released figures came from the ISI Group, an international market research firm that tracks Christmas tree sales through weekly surveys of regional tree associations, farmers and retailers. The company had reported a 5 percent increase in sales for 2012.

The average amount that people spent on a real Christmas tree in 2012 rose to $40.30, with total sales of $1.01 billion, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. The group has not released its statistics for this holiday season.

“We found it was a pretty good season for a lot of the tree sellers,” said Oscar Sloterbeck, head of surveys for the ISI Group. “It was better than it’s been in the last several years. A number of the people we spoke with said things were particularly strong right after Thanksgiving because the weather was conducive.”

He said bad weather in later weeks across parts of the Midwest and Northeast slowed things down, but that many sellers still ran out of inventory by the end of the season.


For example, while Home Depot has not finalized its sales figures for real Christmas trees this holiday period, it anticipated selling 2.8 million of them — up from 2.5 million the previous year.

In general, Christmas tree farmers and sellers in San Diego County said it was a great stretch of business.

“Oh my goodness, it was a fantastic year,” said Vickie Christian, owner of Pine Tree Acres in Ramona, one of four cut-your-own tree farms in San Diego County. “With the short season, because of Thanksgiving coming a week later than usual, that made us extra busy.”

Christian has not calculated her total sales for this year, but estimates that they grew about 25 percent from 2012. Many of her customers were first-timers, she said.

The season went exactly as planned for Richard Gass, owner of Family Christmas Tree Farm in El Cajon, which has been around since 1972.

“We sold all the trees we had for sale,” which was in the thousands, he said.

Operators of The Pinery in Escondido, which sells living, potted Christmas trees to big-box stores and other retailers across the United States, Canada and Mexico, said they also sold out of their inventory this year.

Only Pinery Christmas Trees in Escondido, which imports its trees from the Pacific Northwest, reported a dip in sales this holiday season. Owner Norm Osborne estimated that his business had a 2 percent drop-off from the 2012 level. His goal was to have about 150 trees left at each of his five locations, but he had a couple hundred left at each site on Dec. 24.

Among people who buy real Christmas trees, about one-quarter get them from chain stores and roughly one-quarter go to farms where they can choose and “harvest” the trees themselves, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. Others purchase their trees from garden centers or through churches and community groups selling them for fundraising.

Most sellers chip their unsold Christmas trees into mulch, either on their own, through recycling centers or via community recycling programs like the one hosted by the San Diego Environmental Services Department.