It’s hard to overstate how vital the Christmas shopping season is to the American economy–especially when it comes to retail sales. The National Retail Federation projects that Americans will spend more than $600 billion on holiday shopping this year–accounting for 19.3% of all retail sales.
Of course their are certain products, like Christmas trees, which only sold during the Christmas shopping season. Vendors make the most of the short window they’re given, however, selling 25-30 million conifers each year, bringing more than $1 billion annually and employing 100,000 (mostly part time) workers. Here are seven other things you probably didn’t know about the Christmas Tree Economy:
1. The first retail Christmas tree lots began popping up in various German cities in the 1530s, a few decades after the practice of decorating Christmas trees began in Riga, Latvia. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, the first Christmas tree was decorated by a merchants guild to enliven the local marketplace. In 2010, The Christmas Tree Growers Council of Europe gathered in Hamburg Germany to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the industry.
2. There are 15,000 Christmas tree farms in America, upon which 350 million trees grow on 350,000 acres of land. To put that in perspective, the U.S. harvests 84 million acres of corn each year, 9.5 billion acres of cotton, and 345,950 acres of apple trees.
3. The states with the highest Christmas tree production include Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Washington.
4. It’s an international industry: America exports $4.9 million in trees to Canada, though Canada is a net exporter, sending $26.7 million to the U.S. In retaliation for Congress blocking the entry of Mexican truckers into America, Mexico slapped a tariff on Christmas trees and other agricultural products, though the levy was lifted in 2011.
5. Not all Christmas trees are the same, as at least half a dozen different types of evergreens are popular with American observers of the Christmas holiday. On the East Coast folks tend to go for the Fraser Fir, while orange-scented Oregon Grand fir rules out west.
6. The biggest seller of Christmas Trees is Atlanta-based Home Depot, which moved 2.6 million units in 2012. The home improvement giant actually teamed up with the car service Uber to create a Christmas tree delivery service in 10 cities this holiday season.
7. Fake trees are more popular than you might have thought. Though 70% of trees sold each year are the real deal, Americans still love the plastic variety too. According to the American Christmas Tree Association–which supports sellers of both fake and real trees–83% of all household own a fake plant.