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W.Va. Christmas tree growers expect good sales despite customers spending less

Nov. 27, 2011 @ 12:00 AM

CHARLESTON -- Christmas tree growers in West Virginia say they expect sales to be good this year, although customers might be trimming back a bit.

Marvin Edwards, owner of Whispering Pine Farms in Mason County, said that instead of buying a 10-foot tree, shoppers are choosing smaller ones to save money. Edwards sells precut Christmas trees at Charleston's Capitol Market.

"I think the tree season is going to be fine. I think there will be better sales (than last year)," Edwards told The Charleston Gazette. "I do think sales will be here, but it'll be (from) a smaller tree."

Families want to keep traditions alive and want the fresh pine scent from a real Christmas tree in their homes, he said.

Scott McGraw of Cross Lanes said that aroma is one reason he has been buying Christmas trees from Edwards' station at the Capitol Market for the past 10 years.

"It brings back Christmas of old," McGraw said as Edwards loaded a tree into the trunk of McGraw's car. "They're a little more expensive but it seems more like Christmas."

Many families simply want to find that perfect tree for their home every year.

"It's a family tradition for a lot of folks to go out and make a day with the kids, go to the tree farm, find the perfect tree that they want and cut it down," said Buddy Davidson, a spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture. "Beyond just being a decoration, it's an event."

Sandra Parsons specializes in Fraser firs at Parsons' Christmas Trees in Elkins. Fraser firs accounted for 4.2 million of the 12.9 million cut Christmas trees sold in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. About 3.1 million Douglas firs were sold in 2009 along with 2.7 million Noble firs, the third best-selling species.

"When you're buying a Fraser fir, you might as well say you're buying a Cadillac," Parsons said.

Nearly 2,700 operations sold cut Christmas trees valued at $249.8 million in 2009. In West Virginia, 21 operations sold 18,000 Christmas trees that year.

While the economy has hurt tree sales, Edwards is more concerned with artificial trees, which can be less expensive at some stores.

"Everybody has an artificial tree somewhere. You can't compete with it," he said. "People will put up an artificial tree but they'll have a natural tree in their home, too."



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