ST. LOUIS – The family-owned Meert Tree Farm in Festus has just wrapped up its Halloween season, but the operators are already wondering if they will be able to meet the demand for Christmas trees this year.
“If it goes like last year, we won’t have enough,” said Jennifer Sommerkamp, manager.
The reasons trees could be in short supply this year are varied. Sommerkamp first points to a drought in 2012. The dry weather wiped out a couple of years’ worth of seedlings. It took several years to recover. The trees typically only grow one foot each year.
Just as the farm was recovering from that drought, the pandemic hit.
“Last year we were finally recovered, and then we sold a thousand more trees than normal,” manager Victoria Meert said.
That unexpected boost in sales led workers to do something unexpected. They had to stop selling trees weeks before Christmas.
“We did close down our Christmas tree fields by Dec. 5,” Meert said.
Christmas tree sales at the farm typically last right up until a few days before Christmas. Meert predicts, based on the early interest in trees this year, the farm’s Christmas tree sales could be ending early again.
“I would shop early,” she said.
The farm will start selling Christmas trees the day after Thanksgiving.
Consumers also have concerns about finding artificial trees. News reports involving supply chain troubles have left some stores scrambling for an adequate supply.
The owner of Forshaw on S. Lindbergh says he’s fortunate. The supply of permanent trees in his store is abundant.
“We ordered things earlier than we did in the past because we started to see the supply chain tighten up a little bit last fall,” owner Rick Forshaw said.
The store has a wide range of trees ranging from 30 inches to 12 feet tall. Some include lights, including clerk, multi-colored, LED, and incandescent.
“We even have one tree shaped like a Santa hat,” Forshaw said.
He predicts stores trying to fill any voids or re-stock at this point of the year will probably struggle to meet demand before the holidays.
Supply chain concerns have also led to some worries about finding turkeys for Thanksgiving. In some cases, it’s not the turkey that’s hard to find.
Chef Rick Lewis is the owner of Grace Meat + Three in The Grove. He said some of the material used to wrap certain food products has caused delays. He said packaging problems have been to blame for delays with turkey breasts. He is offering a Thanksgiving meal to go and is encouraging customers to order early.
Restaurants have struggled throughout the pandemic and supply chain issues have created even more challenges.
“We just tried to order a piece of equipment and it’s an 18-to-20-week lead time,” Lewis said. “It’s crazy.”
Kenrick’s Meat and Catering on Weber Road is already experiencing an increased interest in turkeys this year.
“We have been noticing a very early demand from people ordering their turkeys,” said Mike Byassee, operations manager.
He said like last year, the expectation is that smaller turkeys will be in greater demand. He also expects to sell out of the store’s Thanksgiving meal to go.
“Normally we take orders all the way up to the 20th so, we’re thinking we’re going to booked up by the 15th,” Byassee said.