National Christmas Tree Association

Essay by kleintjeUniversity, Bachelor's December 2009

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When someone mentions the word Christmas, many different images can come to mind, depending on who you ask. Some people recall receiving a special gift they had always wanted – perhaps a puppy or a first bicycle. For others the word evokes happy memories of time spent with family and friends, maybe even a grandparent who is no longer with them. A lot of people grow up in homes that don’t celebrate Christmas, so they might associate the holiday with brightly colored public light displays, obligatory gift exchanges at the office, or congested shopping malls. Christmas can even stir up negative emotions in some people, bringing to mind the emptiness felt on the first Christmas after a loved one died or their parents divorced. If you ask the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), they’ll say, “Nothing says Christmas like a Real Christmas Tree”.

Demographic and cultural changes that led to a decline in real Christmas tree sales.

- The changing structure of families (including higher rates of single-parent and divorced households) and increased diversity of the population (introducing new religions and cultures) added to the number of Americas who didn’t celebrate Christmas. This was apparent in a survey done in 2002 where it was implied that nearly one-third of U.S. households did not display any Christmas tree at al, real or artificial.

With two parents working and children involved in multiple extracurricular activities, many families were pressed for time and simply couldn’t interrupt their busy schedules to shop for a Christmas tree, take it home, set it up, decorate it, and at the end of the season, take it down. Also many people didn’t think a Christmas tree was a necessary part of celebrating Christmas anymore.

The dangers of attributing short-term changes in sales and profitability to current events, rather than looking at long-term trends in consumer behavior.

- If industry leaders dismissed the decline in sales as being related to a few isolated “one-time occurrences” and it turned out to be more than just that and they stood back and did nothing, then this would suggest a dim future for this holiday tradition and the Christmas tree industry.

There are many influences that change values including changing family influences:- Less time for in-home or parent-child influence- Increasing divorce rates (broken family traditions)- Isolated nuclear family (geographic separation of generations)There are many different influences that may cause a change in culture and values, causing children to grow up with different traditions and customs than the generation before them. A marketeer must be able to identify and use these changes to create opportunities and be able to adjust strategies to these changes.

The importance of educating consumers on the features of products they buy…How understanding where a product comes from, how it is made, or how it impacts the environment influence consumer decision-making…- Advertising and marketing efforts have difficulty changing behaviors or norms learned early in life, so it would be easier to change marketing mix to conform to cultural values than to change values to conform to marketing mix. Culture changes, values change, therefore products and strategies must too. As research shows that adapting strategies to changing cultures is the best way to go.

The NCTA hope that if they could understand consumer perceptions of real versus artificial trees and were able to educate consumers on the advantages of real trees that once consumers understand the characteristics of each product that they would choose a real Christmas tree and in so doing reverse the sales decline.

The industry needed to address a number of “myth-conceptions” that consumers held regarding real Christmas trees. For example, some consumers believed that cutting down a real, living tree was bad for the environment. Worse, many also felt that the reusable nature of an artificial tree was beneficial for the environment. What those consumers don’t realize is that for every real Christmas tree harvested, three seedlings are planted in its place—providing not only a habitat for wild animals, but also protecting the soil and promoting clean air and water. In fact, each acre of real Christmas trees provides enough oxygen to meet the needs of eighteen people.

By contrast, the plastics, paints, and other chemicals used in artificial trees require large manufacturing plants that emit thousands of tons of hazardous toxins, polluting air and rivers. Managed farming, which maximizes the usage of available acreage, provides for more total trees and reduces the risk of wildfires and other natural disasters compared to if the land were left undeveloped.

If the NCTA can make environmentally conscientious consumers aware that real Christmas trees are fully recyclable, and that it produces a by-product often turned into mulch for community playgrounds and parks. Also that artificial trees overburden landfills (costing all tax-payers) and can take centuries to decompose in the earth. And at a time when American workers are concerned about the security of their own jobs, they should take comfort in buying a domestic product that supports American family farmers—not anonymous factory workers in China and other countries. Then maybe just by knowing that real Christmas trees are in fact better for the environment, consumers may switch back to the use of real Christmas tree.

Why understanding the new generation (Y) is necessary to increase future sales of real Christmas trees? What are some characteristics of the new generation (Y) that may lead to their preference for real over artificial trees?- Generation Y, the cohort of 70 million consumers born between 1979 and 1994, intrigued NCTA for a couple of reason. Individual family members will assume different roles in family purchases depending on the situation and product. Children are most likely to be influencers and users while parents are the decider and the buyer.

Not only were its younger members still living at home and able to influence family purchasing decisions, its older members were advancing to the stage in life in which they would be starting families of their own (Childhood Socialization). Children learn their consumer behaviors through socialization and shopping behaviors from shopping with parents.

NCTA felt that, to be successful in reversing downward trends, it needed to understand the behavior, attitudes, and traditions of younger consumers. Children influence about $1.88 trillion of purchases globally each year. Children exert direct influence over parental spending when they request specific products and brands. They exert indirect influence when parents buy products and brands that they know children prefer without being asked or told to make a specific purchase.

Bibliography1. www.realchristmastrees.org2. Blackwell, Miniard and Engel, Consumer Behavior, 10th international student edition3. www.christmastree.org.uk4. Journal of Marketing 20095. www.christmastreeassociation.org