'Tis the season for consumers, most of whom are credit card dependent paying interest rates at the highest in two decades, to become absolutely holiday poor this year.
So what do we mean? Well, most consumers are going to rack up lots of debt this holiday season -- and one price shock they might encounter are record high Christmas tree prices, reported York Daily Record.
San Francisco-based payment system Square has a new warning for consumers this holiday season: 2019 will be the "most expensive season for Christmas trees in history."
Industry analysts conclude that there's more demand for trees this year than supply:
"Some Christmas tree growers have fewer trees to sell this year than they wish they had. They have fewer trees to cut than in years past," said Doug Hundley, spokesman for the National Christmas Tree Association.
The current industry environment is tighter supply in some of the top trees exporting states, like Oregon and North Carolina, are inflating prices that could dent consumers' wallets.
"Fortunately, many other states grow and ship trees also. Key point here is we have a well-established distribution system delivering trees everywhere including to states that grow almost no trees themselves," Hundley said.
The main driver behind tighter supply is the Christmas tree bust after the Great Recession, which lead to a collapse in tree farms in key export states.
It generally takes seven years to grow a Christmas tree, and with many farms going bust after 2009 to 2012, not enough seedlings have been planted to match demand in 2019.
"In 2008, when the recession hit, people either got out of the business or couldn't afford to plant, so they didn't. Now, we're seeing the fruition of that because it takes about 8 to 10 years to grow a Christmas tree," said Gerrit Strathmeyer, co-owner of Strathmeyer Christmas Trees.
The shortage of trees this year has raised prices across the country. The average price of a tree has more than doubled since 2008, from $36.50 in 2008 to $78 in 2018. Prices this year could exceed $78, likely to push above $81 and could exceed $100, depending on the size, variety, and state.
As the new year rolls around, really, the next decade: 2020, consumers won't necessarily be hungover from the holiday meals and pounds of turkey or the gallons of egg nog that will be had, but rather their credit card bills after the holiday season.
Consumers this year will have to choose between paying for a tree and or paying their phone bill - it could very well be that consumers go on strike as Christmas becomes too damn expensive. Nevertheless, most consumers in the "greatest economy ever" are using credit cards this year with rates at two-decade highs.
So this could only mean one thing: the hangover period for consumption will be seen in 1H20.