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The Price Before Christmas: Costs for Christmas Decorations Head North

It was late Thursday morning and Aldik Home was bustling with dozens of patrons walking through the showroom adorned with thousands of Christmas lights and dozens of trees hanging with all manner of ornaments and ribbons.

Six-decade-old retailer Van Nuys’ Christmas displays have gained notoriety in the past, with the Kardashians filming a holiday episode of their reality show inside. (In a tense exchange at the store, Kim accused Kris of attempting to copy her Christmas decorations purchased from Aldik.)

But this year, Aldik customers will have to open their wallets wider to purchase a 7.5-foot-tall Deluxe Flocked Arctic Tree or a 32-foot Cool White LED Strand.

Prices for some items were up by as much as 25% as the retailer ran into a mix of supply chain issues, store owner Larry Gold said. The store has faced rising shipping and import costs, with rates reaching 600% and delays of several months due to persistent problems at the Port of Los Angeles.

Prices at Aldik are on average 10% higher than last year, Gold said.

The problems have rocked nearly every industry nationwide, with price hikes and delays on everything from toys and video game consoles to clothing and extension cords.

And the price increases are not just affecting decorations and artificial trees: a variety of factors, including fires and extreme heat, have also increased the prices of natural trees produced in the country.

Gold customers, however, don’t seem to care, at least not yet, with the parking lot full and Gold expecting a busy first weekend in December.

Crystal Solorzano of North Hollywood buys Christmas decorations from Aldik Home in Van Nuys. Many decorations are priced 25% more than a year ago.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Dressed in a button-down shirt and mask, Gold supervised his sales area on Thursday morning. As busy as it sounds Thursday, the weekend could be lining up, he said.

But as good as business is, dealing with supply chain issues has become the nightmare before Christmas.

“I have never seen such disruption,” said Gold, who has led Aldik for more than 30 years. His father, Richard Gold, opened the store as Aldik Artificial Flowers in 1951. When not disguised as a winter wonderland, the store specializes in artificial plants and flowers and home decor.

But the store’s holiday woes are illustrated by the ongoing saga of its artificial Christmas trees.

Aldik imports around 2,000 trees from China, transporting them in 10, 40-foot sea containers. Usually the store reserves the containers during the summer, at around $ 3,000 each. The store begins its Christmas preparations, building displays and displaying merchandise, months before the start of the holiday season.

This year, Gold said, it took six weeks to reserve the shipping containers priced at $ 18,000 apiece.

“Not only did it take six weeks to try to book them, but they all got on different ships and when they got here the port was packed and the ships had to stay in the water for a few weeks,” he said. declared Gold. “When they finally entered the port was a mess and the containers were placed in restricted areas.”

The Price Before Christmas: Costs for Christmas Decorations Head North

Johannes Gritschacher and Gisa Escobar find a Christmas tree to their liking, a 6ft tall noble tree, for sale at Santa & Sons Christmas Trees in Sherman Oaks.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

“We still have two containers which we have not received,” he said on Wednesday, adding that one of them had been placed in a restricted area of ​​the port on Monday.

“I don’t know when I’m going to get this one,” he said.

Gold has increased the prices of its Christmas trees by 10-12%, although this has done little to dampen demand for trees of up to $ 1,850; most trees that are delivered to the store are advertised as they get off the truck.

Trisha Williams, of Burbank, examined one of Aldik’s trees Thursday morning, thoughtfully turning the tag over in her hand and touching the branches. She was trying to decide between investing in an artificial tree or buying a real one.

Williams was joined by her sister, Kesha Williams, and Kesha’s 3-year-old daughter, Marie, who was dressed for the season in a mask featuring Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen”.

Artificial trees “last forever,” Tricia noted.

Williams said she felt a sense of urgency to make a decision in the coming days, but was not so concerned with low inventory as it was high prices.

“I haven’t noticed a shortage of Christmas trees, but I have noticed that the prices are higher,” she said.

The Price Before Christmas: Costs for Christmas Decorations Head North

Tricia Williams looks at an artificial Christmas tree for sale at Aldik Home in Van Nuys.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

For Williams’ family, including her mother and sister, Christmas decorations and Christmas trees in particular are important.

“It is very important that it is done beautifully and how we would like it to be done,” she said.

“Hands off my Christmas tree,” Kesha said.

But that commitment to a handcrafted tree can add up.

“It’s getting a little expensive this year,” Trisha said.

“The demand is great and sales are on the rise,” Gold said. “There is a pent-up demand because there was nothing they could do (last year.)”

“The challenge is to get things out on the floor. “

A few miles away, in a parking lot at Los Angeles Valley College, hundreds of real trees stood under tarps on the Santa & Sons Christmas tree grounds, ready to be tied to car roofs or tossed in. the back of vans or even delivered.

The Price Before Christmas: Costs for Christmas Decorations Head North

Charles Ellis helps customers Stephen Clark and Melissa Enright of Valley Glen with a Christmas tree they chose while shopping at Santa & Sons Christmas Trees in Sherman Oaks.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles residents Stephen Clark and Melissa Enright shopped Thursday morning to buy a tree for their apartment. A few years ago, New York State transplants lived in a studio apartment with little room for a tree.

They discovered the Santa & Sons bundle in 2017 when they purchased a wreath. Now in an apartment with a little more space, Clark and Enright have opted for the tree.

Both men were hoping to get their tree earlier – not out of fear that stocks would run out, although Clark had heard of shortages, but simply to enjoy them longer.

“Usually we forget, then it’s mid-December and it only lasts 15 days, so we keep it until February,” Enright said.

“If they were missing it would be a shame, but it’s not the end of the world. A Christmas tree doesn’t make or break the holiday season, but it’s nice to have, ”said Clark.

Landowner and arborist Mark Rohlfs said he plans to sell most of his inventory even after raising prices 5-10% due to inflation and rising labor costs. artwork. Rohlfs said he increased his staff salaries by around 20%.

Rohlfs’ business is vertically integrated: he grows his trees in Oregon, then harvests them specifically for his lot in Los Angeles, which has isolated him from many of the supply chain concerns that his competitors face. Big box and non-growers may be facing season, despite its crop still recovering from fires and extreme heat in the Pacific Northwest this summer.

“In a normal situation, there is a surplus that is generated when you are farming,” he said, explaining that the surplus would be wholesaled to other retailers. “It kind of went away with the 2020 holiday farm fire and then this year’s heat wave damaged about half of the crop. “

But even trees and seedlings damaged in this summer’s heatwave, which brought temperatures to highs of 117 degrees in Oregon in July, are expected to recover within a year.

“I compare it to bad sunburn at the beach. You’ll be fine, but you’ll be lousy for a while, ”Rohlfs said.

Trees “are hard, they are resistant. They can endure that sort of thing.

Los Angeles Times

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