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Inflation drives up prices at Bay Area Christmas tree lots

SAN CARLOS – As a result of inflation, a trip to buy a Christmas tree may be more expensive than it was in previous years.

Shelly Cocco, the co-owner of Honey Bear Trees in San Carlos, told KPIX 5 she and her family knew they’d have to charge a bit more this year for Christmas trees because their operational costs have jumped significantly because of inflation.

“Labor has gone up because of inflation. The trucking has gone up just to load the trees. The actual tree prices on our end, wholesale-wise, have gone up,” Cocco said. “I did not increase it much. I think on the 6-7 [foot] trees here, I think it went up $4. It wasn’t much.”

The decision didn’t come easy, as she didn’t want to push people away from buying Christmas trees.

“It was a struggle. So, I actually was very conscious of this, 5% was all I did, and it was only for the smaller trees,” Cocco said. “I’m trying to do it in such a gradual way where I don’t hurt myself or my customers.”

Cocco’s inflation-induced price increase is on the lower end for tree vendors this year.

Recently, the executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA) explained this year, consumers can expect to see tree price increases from 5% to 20%.

“Because inflation impacts absolutely everything, the industry is seeing increases in shipping costs, fertilizer, trucking, everything you can possibly think of, for live trees this year,” said Jami Warner, the Executive Director of the ACTA.

Warner explained there are other factors at play this year as well that may influence tree prices.

“Weather events and drought are expected and have already impacted live Christmas tree crop yields this season. Christmas tree shoppers may find fewer trees on farms or tree lots due to drought and wildfires from previous years, combined with the drought conditions this year. Given the fuel cost for irrigation pumps and other inflation issues, some growers say customers could see more expensive trees this season,” Warner said.

Cocco says the situation this year is reminiscent to a tree shortage about five years ago.

“With that, the growers increased their prices and therefore passed it on to us,” she said. “The biggest difference right now is the labor costs, the rent for the property – even finding properties especially in the Bay Area is very hard – and the trucking. It’s very expensive. So, this year it’s magnified, tenfold.”

Though she may not make as much money this year, Cocco is willing to pay that price so her customers don’t have to pay too much of a premium for holiday cheer.

“It is a staple of Christmas,” she said. “It’s something that is important to me and I believe it’s important to other people.”

Despite higher inflation-related operational costs, Honey Bear Trees will continue a long-standing tradition of giving back to the community this year.

“We donate to the local schools. 15% of each tree sale – they tell us what school they want it to go to – and that will go back. At the end of the year we compile it all together, and we donate between $10,000-$15,000 every year,” she said. “Even with inflation. These schools need it.”

Source: CBS San Francisco

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