(CNN) —Christmas tree sellers across the country are expecting an influx of new and returning customers this holiday season after experiencing a surge in sales last year.
Industry insiders say the increase in tree purchases is fueled primarily by Millennials, who are settling down and starting families of their own — in one form or another.
Last week, the National Christmas Tree Association released findings from its latest consumer survey. The trade group, which represents thousands of Christmas tree growers nationwide, hired Nielsen/Harris researchers to interview 2,020 US adults last January, just as the holiday season ended.
Their study found a 20% spike in the purchase of real Christmas trees — evergreen pine trees — and a 12% rise in artificial tree purchases in 2018.
The association’s study found that last year American adults bought about 5.4 million more real Christmas trees and 2.5 million more artificial trees than they did in 2017. NCTA seasonal spokesperson Doug Hundley said most of those new purchases were made by Millennials, adults born between the early 1980s and the mid 1990s.
“The Millennial generation is now of the age where they’re settling down, getting married, having kids and turning to real trees to build their own family traditions,” Hundley told CNN Business. “We’ve been looking at that demographic for some time and expecting this to happen.”
The NCTA’s competitor is the American Christmas Tree Association, which represents the nation’s artificial tree producers, and whose members have also experienced a surge in sales in recent years. ACTA executive director Jami Warner attributes the increase to improved economic conditions.
The Christmas tree industry took a major hit in 2008, the beginning of the Great Recession, when many Americans going through financial crises of their own and opted not to buy any trees.
Now, more than a decade later, many Americans have recovered from that downturn and are even purchasing more than one tree to decorate their homes, according to Warner, who said that Millennials appear to be behind the Christmas tree revival.
“We agree with that,” Warner told CNN Business. “What we don’t agree with is that Millennials are buying more real trees. They’re buying real and artificial. They’re buying more trees, period.”
While Millennials are less likely to own a home than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers at the same age, Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insight for the National Association of Realtors, said the real estate industry has experienced a recent rise in such homebuyers. These young adults accounted for 37% of home purchasers in 2018, the largest homebuyer group last year, according to an NAR study released in April.
Lautz said Millennial homebuyers are less likely to form “traditional” nuclear families than previous generations. Many are married couples with children, but others are young couples with pets. Some are friends or simply roommates who prioritize owning a home over paying rent.
But what most of them have in common, she said, is a generational obsession with sharing photos on social media. “It’s not a stretch to me to see that they would want a Christmas tree up to put on Instagram for themselves or their families,” Lautz said.