Frank Duxbury here. I am guessing you are reading this guide because you are considering a substantial purchase to enhance your own Christmas display at home.
Its my intention to arm you with unbiased information. The few minutes reading this will save you a lot of time whilst doing your research and hopefully help you choose what is right for you. After reading this you should not need to ask any questions at all.
A Bit Of History
Did you know that Queen Victoria made this festive phenomenon popular when she had a drawing made of her besides a large Christmas Tree in 1846
Shortly you will learn a lot about the 8 ways which affect the pricing of these festive trees.
- Does size matter?
- PVC or PE
- What do we mean by tips?
- Plastic vs metal
- Hinge or not to hinge
- Design/ type
- Pre- Lit or String Lights
Over the years I have answered many questions about Artificial Christmas Trees and decided to write this for you. Anyone considering such a purchase will find this guide very helpful.
This guide will cement in the important points for anybody considering such a purchase. Just for clarification this guide is intended to inform you about the products themselves in a general form, not who to buy from. It does not cover the subject of the buying process or customer service element or terms and conditions. It’s a sort of tell it as it report which includes down sides too mainly why pricing differs so much.
Before we dig in deep there is one tip I would like to share with you. When doing comparisons do it step by step. What I mean is… compare the height to another tree and get the height right first and as I will explain size does really matter.
Then decide on the width either by measuring or comparing to another one. Choose the style last. The reason for this is simply because not every Artificial Christmas Tree is available in every size or width. Saves a ton of time..believe me.
Just remember one little thing. Make sure you have room to store your new purchase.
So lets begin like this…
Imagine The Perfect Christmas Tree
If you bear with me for a minute on this subject of Christmas Trees… I want to attack your biggest Festive buying decision like this.
Imagine that the first tree invented was the Premium Christmas tree and there was no other and it was say 10ft tall and in correct proportion in width just like a real one. Made of the very best materials which made it look more like a Realistic Christmas Tree… Better and nicer than a real one… Just perfect.
Imagine the quality being so good that it is guaranteed to last many years (unlike a real one)
For ease of this guide lets call the above described as the most expensive Christmas tree you can buy… It’s very important that you follow my concept because it will make for easy understanding of the complex issues as to why prices are all over the place in regards to doing your research. Its much like the information I talked about in my Rattan Furniture Guide.
- 1. Does Size Matter?
I don’t want to take you back to the classroom but it’s all in the math as the Americans say. Most festive customers immediately look at the height difference, the top part where your Tree Topper sits. Completely ignoring the lower fatter part above the base.
This is where it all happens as far as adding cost, which at first seems disproportionate beyond belief. Let me explain a 7ft tree is almost 17% taller than a 6ft one. We haven’t got to the real reason yet. Hopefully I can get this across to you easily… now back to school for 1 min if you don’t mind.
Who would have thought Pi or this symbol 𝝅 would play a part in buying a tree?
𝝅 states that the circumference of a circle is 3.14 x the diameter. This is geometry at its best as well as the 3..4..5 system for working out length on any side of a triangle that is.
So using this principle what can we learn about Christmas Trees? It’s a common understanding that any tree you are considering to buy tapers from top to bottom. The bottom being wider (unless its an upside down tree).
The base getting wider means that the circumference gets bigger at the bottom as it gets taller. As you can imagine it will take more branches to make your desired tree look fuller. Yes its simple I know, but how much extra is required to make it fuller? A lot more than you think that is certain.
Just for example our Allison Pine Range demonstrates just how much extra material is needed to make a taller tree look full.
A 6ft Allison Pine would have 1244 tips (the bits you hang baubles on covered later)
7ft Allison Pine 1796 tips which is knocking to 50% more than the 6ft and all that is added into that extra foot at the bottom.
8ft Allison Pine 2399 tips almost 100% more than a 6ft tree its no wonder why you pay a lot more.
Its all Geometry…
- PVC or PE…
What are we talking about here? As in the foliage. First of all let us understand what we mean by PVC. PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride. Two types are used. Rigid which is used in drain pipes and called RPVC. The other type is flexible. We will talk only about the flexible version known to us as PVC.
PVC is commonly used in raincoats and shower curtains. This material can be coloured. For simplicity sake we will pick the colour of green for our info.
The green PVC is made into thin strips like the Tinsel used in the festive season. Its prepared ready for building a Christmas tree. As a rule this material is used on what we call budget trees such as our Imperial Pine. The whole tree is basically a green PVC Christmas Tree.
On the other end of the scale is a tree made of PE… or its formal name Polyurethane, it’s another form of plastic and different from PVC in regards its use.
The difference between the two as far as this report goes, and simply put. Only PE can be made moulded into any shape. In this case any realistic foliage of any desired tree. The other difference being the massive difference in cost to produce.
Its clear that its far less expensive to make PVC into green strips which makes for a completely fake looking tree at an affordable budget price to the end user.
So there must be a middle ground somewhere in between qualities and there definitely is. I would say that most Artificial Christmas Trees use a mix of PVC and PE.
PVC tends to be used to bulk out the tree enough so you will struggle to see through it. The outer part with foliage on show being made of the nicely formed PE. To be clear if you took away the PVC in these trees it would cause them to lose a lot of visual value. What I mean is they would look very sparce and not worthy of the asking price.
To sum up the more PE used then the more expensive your Christmas tree. It does not however make much difference on how long it will last. Its all about the look in the end. Many have long warranties of say 12 years.
- What do we mean by tips?
This will be easier to understand promise…In its basic form the tip or tips on a tree are at the ultimate ends of each and every branch.
On your budget tree the tip itself will be the metal wire or plastic with PVC strips attached. Metal wire branches generally use 2 wires with the PVC strips entwined together in such away that the individual needles don’t clump together.
As mentioned earlier the amount of tips on a tree have a significant impact on the variations in price especially when made of PE
Another factor that does affect the overall price is the extra work and twine used in fixing the PE tips onto the branches. On average there is 6 moulded tips on the end of each branch section. They look like hands and there could be 200 or so of these hands that need fitting to all the branch sections. It requires a lot manual labour to attach them to the tree.
They are fitted by winding a special twine to the wrists of the PE hands (bunches of tips) which keeps them attached. As you can imagine people need paying to do this extra process and it bumps up the cost of a realistic tree even further.
- Plastic Versus Metal.
Some of the smaller options upto say around 3ft use plastic or metal to make the trunks and branches. Generally speaking metal is more expensive to use and makes for a longer lasting product meaning plastic is cheaper but not as strong and it is possible that some may go brittle over time. Not much of an issue ... Unless you stand on your plastic christmas tree and bust it.
As a rule Fibre Optic Trees are made from plastic even those over 3ft this guide doesn’t go in to detail about them. The best way to describe one is to say it lights up the fibres is very easy to install. We call it Christmas in a box. Or plug and play. Very useful for people who want to join in the festive activity with little effort. A token display for the grandkids sort of thing.
- Hinge Not To Hinge?
Many customers Looking For A New Christmas Tree are often surprised when they come into the shop. I will tell you why…As I demonstrate the features and explain the difference between the tips being PVC and PE and informing them that they are made of metal trunks and branches.
After a couple of informative minutes they have also learned that good quality ones have branches that stay on. What I mean is you don’t have to hook them on. Obviously at first thought you may ask how does it go back in the box. This is a very good question… I demonstrate that all the main branches hinge.
Lots of Ladies are amazed with the fact that you don’t have to mess about looking for the right branch. Many times at the point of amazement the Lady insists on trying the hinged branch by lifting it up and down.
I am not saying for one minute that a hook on tree won’t do the job of looking good. Its just easier to build when the branches are hinged of course this also bumps up the price a fair bit. One disadvantage is the extra weight. Saying that it doesn’t make a massive difference compared to a tree with a lots of PE tips although a 7 footer or above can be really heavy.
- What Style/Type?
I suppose at the end of the day you will make your own mind up as to what style you go for. The style or type of tree you choose will have an effect on a few things. The obvious one being the price.
The are lots of styles to choose from and colours too. Some are so realistic and better than the real thing as far as I am concerned. Yet these perfect trees still cause some customers to want to look all around it…as if they were buying a real one which they will keep for a long time.
The advantage of calling into a specialist shop like a garden centre is that you would normally get to see a good range of trees which you can compare against each other.
Like I mentioned at the beginning choose your height first. Then the width. This will easily rule out most of the choices. Its always best to compare one tree against another. If necessary speak to the sales staff and ask is it possible to put one next to another. Unless the tree is massive I wouldn’t think it unreasonable. Personally, I have done this for many customers over the years. Afterall it’s a considered purchase and the process shouldn’t be rushed.
One time I had a customer come in 5 times over about a 10 day period. That was the days were we also stocked hook on trees. As it happened throughout his visits the trees were selling so well and every time he called in I told him that we are going to sell out “tactics” he said… on his last visit he brought his Mrs and I said “ well this is the last one” So he bought the display we packed it all up into its box. They took it home and a few days later called in and said “ We love the tree but there’s a branch missing”
We arranged to get a replacement which would arrive sometime in the next 12 months. At the end of January the staff were packing things away and one of them brought this lonesome branch to me… I laughed for a minute and rang the customer.
So we don’t stock hook on types no more. They are still very popular and are in there own price bracket somewhere in the upper budget price. They tend to have short warranties and the branches tend to move sideways a bit.
The biggest disadvantage of a hook-on type is… and I am speaking from experience here. They can unhook very easily, especially with young kids about the house, and also if you want to reposition it a bit. So be careful as they are a pain to hook back on when your tree is decorated. Other than that they are ok. The other downside with the hook-on types is the choice is limited.
Some Christmas trees are designed very sparsely with big gaps between branches, the whole idea is to decorate this type of with long dangling decorations. Applying Tinsel would be a mistake. Wire micro lights suit this look as you don’t see the wiring so much.
Over years the introduction of colours such as silver, black and white became slightly popular and many were bought for hairdressers and the like. Now we are testing Bright Red Christmas Trees and Blue Christmas Trees too. Before long I suspect 25% of all trees will be coloured.
Snowy Christmas Trees have been around for a while. Basically it’s a normal tree sprayed with sticky fake snow. You will pay a bit more for this extra little job. There is one possible down side depending on quality and that is how many bits fall on your carpet. So be prepared for the odd extra cleaning duty especially just before visitors turn up.
More recently frosted or iced versions are showing early signs of being pretty popular. They are particularly suitable for decorating in cool colours such as blues, whites, silvers and clear baubles. These definitely drop less bit than the snowy versions. Again you will pay a bit more for this application.
There are a few versions of pop up trees. Where you basically take your tree out of a square box, place it on the desired area of your choice. Pull it upwards and it clicks into place and bam you have the fastest Christmas tree in town. The advantage here is the space saving which with a flat square box is super for storage. They have little weight. Decorated to a fair standard and have enough lights for reasonable enjoyment.
We have tested this style before, and we found them to be unpopular. We will try again at some point. I wonder whether if its not the time yet for this revolutionary concept? In all fairness they are a little bit too much in cost in my opinion because basically you have bought something hollow. Overall a very good idea for someone who does not have the time or patience to set up the whole shebang. There are limitations with pop-up trees and that is you cannot add baubles because it does not have branches.
Fibre optic Trees are another quick solution as explained earlier. A bit more effort is required to look good than a pop-up trees as you still have to straighten the branches and tidy it a little.
In my experience this is how it seems to work, over the years of observing customers. I am being a generalist here. People generally start out with the biggest real tree they can fit into their houses. Then either move on to a budget tree or a premium tree. Then on to a fibre optic tree or a similar quick solution. Then onto something tiny that sits onto the front window sill.
- Pre-Lit or String Lights?
There is a real advantage to this concept of Pre-Lit Christmas Trees and they look great and are very easy to set up. With every bulb in the right place its luxury. You pay a fair amount more than the combined cost of the tree and lights but that is far outweighed because you have the instant look. Personally, I think this is a tougher decision than it first appears.
Why do I think this? I know the tree looks brilliant in seconds as you don’t have to dance around with half a mile of lights. There is however one major concern that I would urge you to weigh up. What happens when your lights pack in? I can tell you from first-hand experience helping a customer one year.
I volunteered to help sort out a problem. The tree was out of warranty and the customer had the lights fail. It took me a fair while to cut out the lighting loom which was fixed into virtually every branch on this tall and wide tree. This was a very premium tree which cost something like a DFS sofa.
I felt so sorry for this lady that I gave her a set of lights. Like I mentioned at the beginning this guide is not about customer service its about you choosing the right tree for you and your family.
So, think about it first. Weigh up the risk as to whether to have the perfect set up now with the consideration that your lights may fail in the future. I am not suggesting for one minute that they will fail but neither am I suggesting they will last a lifetime.
Everything we talk about leads to some variation on pricing.
The price can vary a massive amount. Let’s say you choose a budget tree from a supermarket. So, when I say budget tree from a supermarket I mean one that costs around £15 to £25 and that being a 6 foot version. Made of PVC but with the minimum of design and very sparce and normally pretty slim.
These budget trees or as I would like to call them super budget trees are normally sold without demonstration near the automatic doors as you go into the supermarket. Your average customer would see the boxes and its picture of the tree and a fantastic price…NO Brainer.
The real benefit in choosing a super budget tree is that the cost is very minimal, and it tends to be an extremely small and light box… good for getting home easily especially for people who have no car.
A few years back a did a demo on facebook… I went to Tesco and bought a super budget tree then set it up next to one of our premium trees and explained the differences on video. The biggest difference being the obvious price and the second obvious difference the amazing quality. The disadvantage of course is you have to pay maybe 10 x more. Plus, the box weighs a lot more and you have to store a bigger box.
In the video and as part of the demonstration I hung a quality bauble on the premium tree then attempted to hang the same bauble on the super budget tree…how did I go on you may ask. It fell off immediately. So, if you are considering buying a super budget tree then make sure you buy super light baubles that will stay on the branches.
What we in the trade call a budget tree has a minimum standard of hinged branches and metal frame and generally speaking are not sparse, in other words you cant really see through them that easily. The budget trees in this class will cope with heavy baubles as the tree uses the same quality frame as lots of premium versions.
The last thing on pricing is pricing by the retailer. It’s possible to overpay for a lower costing tree without realising. Good images can fool most people. Read the description fully before buying and refer to this guide, as necessary.
Now you know as much me and you too can speak like an expert about how to buy a Christmas tree that suits your needs.
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