AMHERST – It’s an annual tradition. The Y’s service club sets up a Christmas tree lot in Kent’s parking lot, on South Albion Street. The fir trees come from the Truro area and sell for $30. The money goes to the Y. And this year, sales have been good.
“It’s up,” said Johnny Martin, a Y’s men volunteer.
This is Adam King’s third year working at Moore’s Trees to Please, just off Lawrence Street.
“For me, it’s been mostly slow,” he said. But that’s because he has the morning shift.
King said they sold 50 trees in a two-day span this season, and that sales might be slightly higher this year.
The lot gets their product from Leicester. Most go for $20 or $25 and firs are the most popular, according to King. He guesses the lot has been running for a decade or more.
“He’s been here a while – quite a while,” said the man of his employer.
No surprise, King is happy to provide a sales pitch touting the benefits of real trees over artificial.
“It looks nicer,” he said.
With artificial trees, “something’s missing…it just doesn’t feel right.”
Back at the Kent parking lot, though, Martin reveals he has an artificial tree at his place.
“Half the time I’m not home,” said the volunteer.
An artificial tree doesn’t need be watered, he said, and there’s no fire hazard.
Anecdotal evidence may be positive, but the Christmas tree industry in this province faces challenges.
“We’re seeing a shrinking market,” said Angus Bonnyman, executive director of the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia.
A number of pressures are contributing to that, according to him: a move to artificial trees or no tree at all; and new species have come online that aren’t grown in Nova Scotia.
He expects exports may be down this year, perhaps significantly, due to a glut of trees being harvested in the Carolinas. A surplus of trees is pushing prices down, even below cost. The export side of Christmas trees is worth $30- to $35-million to the province, and the industry as a whole employs about 4,000 people, or about 800 full-time equivalent positions.
“Most of the trees are coming from Lunenburg County,” he said.
The council’s membership ranges from larger ‘broker’ operators to small operations of a few acres.
“I think that it is profitable in good years,” he said.
Is it shaping up to be a good year? Bonnyman said it’s too early to tell. Some sellers are reporting a good first couple of weekends, though.
“(You) can’t replicate the smell and warmth of a real tree,” he said.
The executive director also framed real trees as an environmental choice. An acre of Christmas trees provides oxygen for 18 people, he said.
“They’re fully biodegradable…(and) you’re providing jobs for local Nova Scotians.”