Tree price rises ‘will be next step in squeezed consumers’

Shareholder advisers responsible for many large pension fund votes have said shoppers should expect to pay more for trees this Christmas because of rising energy and transport costs.

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Christine Elliott of Manifesto Club – which advises investors on how to vote at company meetings – said: “We think that Christmas trees will be more expensive this year because of energy, labour, transport and trees.”

We buy our Christmas trees twice a year, once in November and again in January. Depending on the type of tree and local conditions, retail prices can vary from £5 to £30. A group of independent share data analysts called Share Centre last week said it believed retail prices for Christmas trees could rise by 3% to 3.5% this year, on top of rising costs.

Jill Paterson, of Brewin Dolphin Share Services, said: “The truth is that costs are not always deflationary and the falling cost of food, alcohol and commodities in general has not benefited every shareholder in every company.”

A spokesman for Asda said the retailer’s Christmas strategy, developed with tree growers and supplier chain partners, included increasing the number of sites available to customers. He said: “We will work with suppliers to ensure they can maintain this level of supply despite lower wheat prices and, for sites that are about to close, we will move to another location that is already supplied by a supplier that will process their remaining harvest for Christmas trees.”

The spokesman said “the biggest change to Christmas tree costs over the past decade or more has been an increase in the cost of transport”. He said the retailer was committed to offering the best possible Christmas experience and would be reviewing suppliers “in light of trends in supply chain costs”.

WasteLoss offers a complete recycling of pine, elm, red, white, silver and one-off tree waste – including branches, cones, trimmings and/or hollow trunks – at a discount to a tree’s retail price. It also refurbishes trees with chemical-free, nut-free natural colours, before rewarding customers with the financial equivalent of a free tree.

Speaking on behalf of Stewart, which buys, stores and sells Christmas trees, the chief executive of the company, Danny Christian, said: “Much of this is down to transport costs. It takes a long time to grow and mature a pine tree, so we pay a lot of money for trees that can be used for a year or longer. Transport costs are also going up and getting that wood to your home is becoming increasingly expensive as well.”

Christian said Stewart took stock at the end of the season and returned all of its revenue to its distribution centre, and reinvested anything left over in staff training, fundraising and marketing. However, he said there were fewer Christmas trees being sold over the past 10 years than in the first decade of trading.

The statement came after the Open the Christmas Tree project, a social enterprise that helps people dispose of their unwanted Christmas trees, issued a fundraising appeal at the weekend, calling on people to help bring in extra funds. As part of the group’s Green Monday campaign, people are asked to “share the Christmas spirit” by publicly decluttering their trees. Trees used for Green Monday will be free.

Members of Share Centre said that while Christmas prices might be up, food inflation had fallen dramatically this year.

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