Sellers surprised by high demand for big evergreens

Families who are waiting until the weekend to buy their Christmas trees may be in for a shock.

Across the board, retailers throughout Hilo are unable to keep up with demand for the big evergreens as the holiday spirit inspires shoppers to open their wallets.

“All over Hilo, there are less Christmas trees this year,” said Chris Behle of KTA Super Stores on Puainako Street. “They better get ’em now.”

“There are way less trees this year. People are asking for certain varieties, certain types of trees, and they aren’t there any more,” he said. “The public needs to know there’s no trees out there. They’re running out.”

Behle wouldn’t say how many trees KTA has ordered, but he confirmed that those on display at the front of the store are the last of their shipment. As of midday Tuesday, everything higher than 7 feet had sold out.

“I really felt in the recession, people would go for a reasonable-sized tree,” Behle said. Now, he feels that if a store ordered 200 10-footers, they’d be all gone.

“I don’t think you can find a big tree on this island,” Behle said.

Lesley Hill, the proprietor of Paradise Plants, said that interest is so strong that some people want to preorder their trees for Christmas 2011.

This year, big is back. Paradise Plants’ tallest trees were priced at a high of $245, but they were sold out in the first day and a half after going on sale. Like KTA, the store still carries trees for as low as $30, but almost all are between 4 and 7 feet.

“What’s up with that?” Hill asked. “Why don’t they tell us they want big trees this year?”

The firs come from a family-owned farm in Mossyrock, southern Washington. Hill stopped to admire one of her last tall trees, a lush grand fir topping 7 feet.

“The shape is perfect,” she said. “The feedback from customers is they don’t want to throw them away for January.” So Hill suggests decorating them with hearts to make a Valentine tree.

Paradise Plants ordered 280 trees; by Tuesday only about a third of that remained for sale.

The Hilo Y’s Men and Women Service Club expects to sell out of its 248 trees by today. They’ve averaged 61 trees a day over the first three days.

“We’re really grateful for the community for coming out to support us,” said club President Lance Niimi. Proceeds from the tree sales also benefit the Island of Hawaii YMCA.

“People want the big trees this year,” Niimi said. “Last year, I think there were a lot of people who wanted the small trees.”

Here too, the 7-footers disappeared from the lot in the Ben Franklin Crafts parking lot on the first day.

“All the nobles were gone last night,” he said. “I think by tomorrow (Wednesday) we’ll sell out by noon.”

Niimi was aided by volunteers from the Big Island Substance Abuse Council and Robert “Steamy” Chow, who recalls the Christmas tree sales by the Y’s Men began in 1938, when the club was organized.

Sales were brisk at the Hilo Walmart, said associate Zane Ogle.

“We’re doing really good. We’ve run through three (shipping) containers” and the fourth and final one is coming Thursday.

“I think our 5 to 6 (footers) sold fastest,” Ogle said. “The biggest is the 7 to 8. We only got five or so in a container … Those sold out pretty fast.”

At The Home Depot, “things are going fast and furious,” said the Garden Department’s Israel Reyes. “We had a crazy, crazy weekend. We actually rolled through 21/2 containers through three days.”

The 6-foot trees are selling the fastest, he said. He’s not certain how many shipping containers the Hilo store has ordered, but it’s clear that the pace has picked up.

In 2009, Reyes said, the store ordered five containers of Christmas trees and didn’t sell out until mid-December. This year, if The Home Depot ordered the same number of trees, the last one would disappear around the end of the week or the middle of next week.

On the low end of the price range, the smallest trees at Walmart, 3 to 4 feet, were selling Tuesday for $20, while The Home Depot sold 3-to-5 footers for $22.

Hawaii Tribune-Herald :: Hilo, Hawaii > Local News

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