In tough times, Americans cling to Christmas trees

Thu Dec 18, 2008 8:04pm EST
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By Nick Carey

GENEVA, Illinois (Reuters) - Beleaguered Americans may have to trim the size of their Christmas tree this year or cut back on gifts to afford one, but few will do without the holiday centerpiece no matter how bad the economy.

Industry insiders from tree farmers to people like Rick Rusin -- who sells trees in the corner of a small shopping mall parking lot in the western Chicago suburb of Geneva -- say that while consumers are tightening budgets, for them it's business as usual.

"So far sales haven't been the best I've seen, but they're also far from the worst," said Rusin, 26, who is in his seventh year selling trees from Thanksgiving in November to Christmas Eve on Dec 24. "I would say it's just an average year."

"Some people have complained about the price, but I get complaints every year," he added.

The 500 Christmas trees he has to sell for about $10 per foot stand here in several inches of snow waiting for new owners. Despite bright sunshine it is bitterly cold, and Rusin is cheerful, not least because he still has this seasonal work after recently losing a full time job in a warehouse.

"I love this job, it's so much fun seeing how much kids enjoy buying their trees," he said, bare hands stuffed deep in his pockets, his nose red with cold.

While the Christmas tree may be a sacrosanct part of family festivities for tens of millions of Americans, some consumers are expected to economize on other things to be able to have a tree or downsize to a smaller tree or cheaper variety.

"Some people may be forced to cut back on gifts to afford a tree," said Bill "Captain Jack" Dennis, who runs the online Christmas Tree Farm Network and used to own a tree farm in Iowa. "Others will look for a smaller or less expensive tree."   Continued...

<p>A reflection of the New York Stock Exchange is seen on an ornament as it hangs from the Stock Exchange's official Christmas tree on Broad Street, December 18, 2008. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid</p>