Nationwide Christmas tree shortage impacting tree sellers in Hampton Roads

Posted at 2:58 PM, Dec 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-02 17:16:21-05

SUFFOLK, Va. - If you haven't bought your Christmas tree yet, now may be the time - that is, if you can find one.

"Everyone wants the Fraser firs. That is the Cadillac of Christmas trees," said Mike Helvestine, owner of Santa's Forest and Nursery in Suffolk.

"We ordered 400 firs and we got 198 in, and we didn't even know we would have that until 45 days ago," said Helvestine.

The demand for trees is so high he sold more than half of his minimal inventory from his lot in just 48 hours.

"The supply is so low, demand is high, people are scrambling, our phone is ringing off the hook," he explained.

Helvestine says the shortage is a snowball effect stemming from the great recession of 2008.

"The market for Christmas trees bottomed out, " he said.

He told News 3 families then clutched their paychecks and farmers got out of the business or planted fewer seedlings. He gets his stock from North Carolina, one of the largest producers, because you have to have high elevation to even grow the trees people want.

"Also, a 10-foot Fraser fir takes 12 to 15 years to grow, so this shortage is still gonna hit us the next couple years," explained Helvestine.

He says he has even had to pass on an increase of cost to customers.

"We hate to do it, but we have to," he said.

If you want a different type of tree - like a Leland Cypress, Blue Ice or Virginia Pine - he has plenty of those and you can go to his nursery located at 5151 Carolina Road to cut one down. Santa's Forest will be open from 9 a.m. until it gets dark next weekend.