Christmas tree retailing in heat and strong winds. How to keep your trees fresher.

The Christmas tree retailing season in Southern California is often plagued with adverse weather conditions such as high temperatures and strong winds. These can transform your fresh and beautiful inventory of trees into a dried out pile of waste if left exposed. Although your Christmas trees arrive fresh, it is your job as the retailer to keep them that way. There are measures that can and should be taken by retailers to help keep them as fresh and salable as possible.


  • Store trees in an area that will provide good ventilation yet protect them from direct exposure if possible.
  • Stack them a few inches above ground, and in a crisscross fashion. This allows air to pass through the stack, preventing retention of heat within it. A cut Christmas tree is an organic material, and generates heat on it’s own as it decomposes.
  • If trees must be stored in an area that is in direct exposure to the elements, place shade cloth over them, and water them frequently. Although a tree absorbs moisture from it’s trunk and root system, the watering will help provide an evaporative cooling effect on them.


  • Prep trees in an area that will provide good ventilation yet protect them from direct exposure if possible.
  • Make fresh cuts on all tree bases before standing, and keep the butts in water. Once moved to display area, they can be prepped for sale.
  • Keep trees baled after standing until moved to the display area. This will minimize their exposure to the elements.
  • If trees must be prepped in an area that is in direct exposure to the elements, install shade cloth at critical areas, to minimize exposure.


  • If trees will be displayed in an area that is directly exposed to the elements, install shade cloth in critical areas, to minimize exposure to them.
  • Reduce the amount of trees in your display area. This will turn your displayed and exposed trees over faster, reducing the amount of time they are exposed to the elements.
  • Keep all tree butts in water.


Now that you have diligently kept you trees in a fresh condition,  your customers need to to keep them that way, and their house safe while there. We recommend providing them with a list of recommendations. We recommend that retailers make a fresh cut before turning them over to customers. Below is a list that has been prepared by the National Christmas Tree Association:

How to Care for Your Farm-Grown Christmas Tree

When a Christmas tree is cut, more than half its weight is water. With proper care, you can maintain the quality of your tree. Below are a number of tips on caring for your tree:

  • Displaying trees in water in a traditional reservoir type stand is the most effective way of maintaining their freshness and minimizing needle loss problems.
  • To display the trees indoors, use a stand with an adequate water holding capacity for the tree. As a general rule, stands should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Devices are available that help maintain a constant water level in the stand.
  • Use a stand that fits your tree. Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed.
  • Make a fresh cut to remove about a 1/2-inch thick disk of wood from the base of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. Make the cut perpendicular to the stem axis. Don’t cut the trunk at an angle, or into a v-shape, which makes it far more difficult to hold the tree in the stand and also reduces the amount of water available to the tree.
  • Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does NOT improve water uptake.
  • Once home, place the tree in water as soon as possible. Most species can go 6 to 8 hours after cutting the trunk and still take up water. Don’t bruise the cut surface or get it dirty. If needed, trees can be temporarily stored for several days in a cool location. Place the freshly cut trunk in a bucket that is kept full of water.
  • The temperature of the water used to fill the stand is not important and does not affect water uptake.
  • Check the stand daily to make sure that the level of water does not go below the base of the tree. With many stands, there can still be water in the stand even though the base of the tree is no longer submerged in water.
  • Keep trees away from major sources of heat (fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight). Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process, resulting in less water consumption each day.
  • Use of lights that produce low heat, such as miniature lights, will reduce drying of the tree.
  • Always inspect light sets prior to placing them on the tree. If worn, replace with a new set.
  • Do not overload electrical circuits.
  • Always turn off the tree lights when leaving the house or when going to bed.
  • Monitor the tree for freshness. After Christmas or if the tree is very dry, remove it from the house.
  • Visit the Tree Recycling page to find a recycling program near you.
  • Never burn any part of a Christmas tree in a wood stove or fireplace.

2018 Bishop and Mathews Christmas Tree Forecast

We recently returned from our annual  Spring trek to the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree growing region. During this trip, we visit as many farms as we can. The growers are pretty rested and relaxed this time of year, so we get some quality time with them. What we learn from them during these visits explains a lot about our current situation as retailers, and also provides us with insight as to what we may expect from the farms in the future.
One grower that we visited told us that he has been increasing planting, and expects to have more trees available starting next year.  We think that overall 2018 availability will be similar to 2017.
It looks like the last few years of grower price hikes have put the farms back on solid ground. We think that prices may have stabilized. An overall shortage still exists, however. The farms that have contracts with big box retailers are still scouring other farms to purchase trees in an effort to honor their own commitments. We don’t think this will affect us any differently than it already has.  We are frequently reminded by the mid sized farms that we buy from however, that filling our orders of mixed species, sizes, grades, and split loads, is more time consuming, complicated, and costly than most of their other customer’s orders. Reading  between the lines, they are telling us that although they maintain their loyalty to us, if we weren’t around, they wouldn’t have to work quite as hard, and would probably make a few more bucks. One grower told us that it can take up to an hour longer to load one of our trucks.
The biggest challenge that the grower’s are facing today is the continually increasing shortage of labor. Another is their continually increasing operating costs across the board. Those that survived the recession and tree glut are having to make changes in order to become more productive and efficient in order to survive in today’s farming environment. One that we know is experimenting with narrowing the taper on some of his trees, to lighten them up and make them easier to handle. This would also reduce freight costs by loading more of these trees in a van, and increase productivity by planting more trees in the same field. We don’t know if or when we may actually see a shipment of trees like this get delivered to a retailer. Another has stopped growing anything over 8 ft., because of their weight and the difficulty of handling them. One grower explained that in the same amount of space and time it takes to grow a 16 ft. tree, he could grow 8  7/8 ft. trees twice. In addition, the risk of damage to them during harvest, baling, loading, shipping, etc, is greater since the branches tend to be more brittle than on others.  We may see a future decrease in the overall availability of bigger trees.
Truck drivers’ hours of service regulatory requirement for trucks to be equipped with electronic logging devices is now in effect.  The new regulations could translate to a decrease in truck availability, and an increase in  freight costs. Unfortunately there is no way to know until the shipping Season actually begins.

Setting retail prices for Christmas trees

To successfully determine retail prices for Christmas trees, retailers must know their customers, understand their needs, and set their tree prices and services at a level that will match them.  In addition, retailers must know how many trees they will need to sell at those prices to cover operating expenses and generate a worthwhile profit.

We have noticed that retailers can usually get a higher price for the same tree the farther South and West they are located from the Los Angeles area, and less the farther North and East. We see a spread of anywhere between 100 and 300 percent markup by retailers throughout California and Nevada as we visit them during their selling Season. Retailers that dress up their trees, keep them fresh, display them nicely, and work hard selling them, generally command a higher markup.

Being a unique product of nature, a delivery of #1 trees will vary in densities, tapers, colors, shapes, layering’s, heights, etc.  A seasoned retailer will bring out more desirable qualities in some and sell at a premium price, and may mark others down that don’t seem as desirable as the rest. If damage is present, retailers normally make necessary repairs and/or sell at a discount.

Since growers and wholesalers don’t set retail prices for their customers,  it would not make sense for them to request credit on a tree that they marked down without the grower or wholesaler also getting paid extra for a tree that they marked up.

Some things to consider when determining retail prices:

  • Are Big Box retailers selling trees at or below their cost as loss leaders near you? If so, don’t try to compete price wise. Your success will depend on quality and  service instead.
  • What did your competitor’s sell their trees for during the prior Season?
  • Do you want to sell based on price or on service and quality? It is hard for a customer to put a price on great service, high quality products, and a cherished, yearly family outing in a festive atmosphere.
  • How many trees will need to be sold at your desired markup to cover operating costs and also make your efforts worthwhile? Is that quantity and/or markup  realistic?
  • Are you trying to develop a loyal, long term customer base? Make sure to have adequate stock so you don’t send potential customers to your competitor. Selling out early is nice if you are satisfied with your sales.
  • Make sure that your merchandising and pricing strategy makes your trees look more attractive than the alternative artificial tree.

Oregon Farmers See Christmas Tree Shortage

Oregon Farmers See Christmas Tree Shortage

As the 2017 Christmas tree season approaches farmers are beginning to see that the over abundance of Christmas trees is no longer on issue.  In fact, it is quite opposite.  Farms are now seeing a shortage in trees faster than they had thought.  Here is an interesting article discussing the Christmas tree shortage in the  upcoming years.

Modern Christmas Tree Retailing

Modern Christmas Tree Retailing

Before the days of plantation grown trees, farmers worked with and harvested their trees  from wild forested stands for the most part.

The retailers had to rely on their own skills and ingenuity to spruce  them up into nice looking trees, attractively merchandise and market them, and then work hard  to sell them.

Today’s trees are pretty magnificent comparatively speaking. Consequently, many of us will never need or acquire much of the knowledge and skills that these treasured old time retailers relied on.  It is unrealistic for retailers to think that today’s growers can manufacture a tree to a specific set of standards at will, however.  It is still a tree that is unique and governed by genetic characteristics  and environmental conditions that  cannot be overcome.  It’s quality, shape, desirability, grade, and value are considered personal preferences that vary from consumer to consumer, for the most part.


It is still and always will be up to the retailers to know how and commit to making them look their best.  Retailers will always need to rely on their own sales skills and strategies to sell their trees. As a general rule, it is not reasonable to expect trees to sell themselves, or acceptable to blame a grower if they don’t sell.

  • Limbs can get twisted during the baling process. Spend a few moments studying the tree, and help it unfold back to it’s original shape.
  • Shake it good to remove any debris or dropped needles.
  • Inspect it’s overall shape. A selective clip here or there may help finish the tree to your satisfaction.
  • Insert a branch to fill an unwanted opening. (plugging)
  • Add a coat of flock to a drying or undesirable tree.
  • Repair a broken top or branch.
  • Reduce price if necessary.

Most of our great customers have been with us  for 30 years, some 40, and a few over 50. These “Old Timers” built this great industry that we now enjoy with nothing but their own ingenuity and grit. They are treasure troves of hard earned knowledge and wisdom.  We don’t need for them to tell us how they do  it. No one was was there to tell them how to do it. Just do it and become your own treasure trove of knowledge and wisdom that others will one day find remarkable!

Modern Christmas Tree Retailing

Modern Christmas Tree Retailing

Modern Christmas Tree Retailing

Modern Christmas Tree Retailing

This is a great article about the beginnings of the Southern California Christmas tree industry

 “The Tracks”-Southern California Christmas Tree Industry

Trains played a huge roll in getting the Southern California Christmas tree industry started. Without a doubt, Bishop and Mathews knew how to use the trains to their advantage!  In fact, “The Tracks”, were the best place to be to get a fresh cut Christmas tree.  They were auctioned right out of the boxcar to the highest bidder.

Ron Bishop wrote this great article in Christmas Tree Lookout about the beginnings of the Southern California Christmas tree industry.  He tells us in this article what life was like being part of the  up and growing Christmas tree industry.  Ron lived it first hand and wrote this article based on his own personal experience and knowledge.


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.

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