Smart Solutions: Going big since we're all home for the holidays
COVID may have taken a toll on Thanksgiving, but it can’t cancel Christmas just yet, especially the sentiment behind the holiday. If seasonal tree sales are any indication, local sellers have seen a steep increase in real and artificial varieties along with other adornments.
Jamie Jo Boulogne, SVP-general merchandising manager for At Home says their artificial trees, available in over 100 styles, have been a big seller as have trimmings since the day after Halloween. As many got a head start on their holiday shopping, seasonal sales were up by more than 20 percent in the third quarter.
Flocked trees, dress form shapes and oversized varieties are among the unique selections. “We also have black Christmas trees people decorate for Halloween that are a little less traditional,” she says. Boxed ornaments and tree toppers are popular. Red, green and gold tones may be here to stay, but there’s also been a shift toward pinks and blues. “It’s fun that we can bring some inspiration and joy,” says Boulogne.
At English Gardens, Darrell Youngquest, fresh Christmas buyer, says sales are up for this category that includes seasonal trees, wreaths, garland, potted trees and evergreen containers.
Fresh greens and their lifelike counterparts, from baskets to swags are hot for the holidays. “What we’re seeing with the pandemic is that more people are home, so they decorate a little early like they did for Halloween,” he says.
“People need something to do or they’ll go stir-crazy. In the spring, it was gardening. Now they’re not leaving in the dark to go to work and coming back after dark, so they could be paying a little more attention to their homes. If you’re there all day, you might as well enjoy how it looks and how it makes you feel.”
According to a small survey by Amy Start, executive director for the Michigan Christmas Tree Association (MCTA), choose-and-cut farm sales were up anywhere from 10 to 50 percent with some selling out before December. “People have cleaned and decluttered their homes and the thought of having more stuff isn’t as appealing, so they want to decorate and have a Christmas tree,” she says.
Start visited several farms and saw firsthand how happy people were to be out and about. “It’s a family experience. Kids were dressed up to take pictures and people were smiling. It’s a place to go that’s safe, outside and distanced,” she says.
“People normally travel during the holidays, so they put up an artificial tree because they’re not going to be home. Now many are home and working from home, so they can get a real tree and they want something new to do with the kids.”
Fresh wreaths, centerpieces and porch pots have also been popular. Start suggests calling first to make sure farms are open (mcta.org has a map and directory). “Santa may not be making a visit at the farm because he’s trying to stay healthy,” she says.
At Hillside Christmas Tree Farm in Manchester, Tony Stefani, who works with his father Richard, says they’ve added a fire pit to existing attractions like the photo ops that include a ruler for kids to record their height at the time.
“With the pandemic, people can still come out and create memories when they pick their trees and cut them,” says Tony, who also serves as vice president for the MCTA. “We have no wagon rides or warming barn. But, we’re still doing our Tot Lot for kids to have smaller trees in their rooms where they get to do their own decorating and Santa might sneak a few extra gifts under there.”
For Steinkopf Nursery in Farmington Hills, fresh tree sales started as soon as they unloaded the semi-truck, says John Steinkopf, co-owner of the fourth generation family-owned business. “People want to decorate outside and have a nice fresh tree inside,” he says. “Everybody is trying to get back to that homey feeling.”
Fresh accents like garland remain strong along with holiday signs and ornaments, while tree sales are up 80% over last year. “There’s nothing like the aroma of a real tree and the novelty and nostalgia,” says Steinkopf. “It’s a family tradition and it benefits the local economy.”
Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.