Time is running out fast for consumers who haven't decked their halls or trimmed their tree. There's still more than a week before Christmas, but tree lots are emptying out.
"Demand has been very strong," said Oscar Slotarbeck, head of company surveys for ISI Group, which tracks Christmas tree sales. The weekend after Thanksgiving, sales rose 16 percent compared with last year—the biggest jump in the survey's 11-year history. Sales slowed a bit in early December due to winter storms, but were up 7 percent year over year.
Christmas tree purchases have waxed and waned with economic uncertainty. Last year, people bought 24.5 million real trees, down from 30.8 million in 2011, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. That, in turn was up from 27 million in 2010. Consumers who bought a tree last year reported spending an average $40.30.
Some of this year's boom stems from more consumers wanting trees, as well as more people buying early because there's one fewer week between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, said Slotarbeck. But tree sellers hadn't anticipated higher demand.
"My sense is, a lot of the various sellers expected the season to be roughly the same as last year," he said. "Some of the retailers said things sold so well the first weekend, they were running low on some particular large, popular trees."