THIS year has been unprecedented for the Christmas tree industry, with sales through the roof and businesses selling out earlier than normal.
Adelaide Blue Lake Christmas Trees has a three-hectare farm at Mount Compass and home depot at Aldgate, which has been overwhelmed with orders since early November.
The family business - run by Neil and Jo Collins, with children Hamish, Madeline and Georgina - sold out of trees by mid-December, when normally they would sell right up to Christmas.
Hamish put the popularity down the three things.
"I think people aren't travelling for Christmas as much this year because of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19," he said.
"They have also been wanting a little extra Christmas cheer at home that comes from the smell of a real tree and enjoying the experience of buying one - we have had a lot of first-time buyers come through our depot this year.
"And with concerns about potential future lockdowns, people got in early to make sure they had one this year."
Normally we sell right up to December 22, but this year we sold out by mid-December - we have never sold out that early!
Jo agreed, saying four weeks ago they were unsure whether they would even be able to sell trees this year because of COVID-19 restrictions.
"That uncertainty made people lock one in early or have them held on pre-order," she said.
"Normally we sell right up to December 22, but this year we sold out by mid-December - we have never sold out that early!
"It has been really busy this year."
Hamish had also built a website for the business this year, which further encouraged orders.
The Collins family have been selling Christmas trees since 1983, just after the devastating Ash Wednesday fires.
Neil was a district forester in Mount Gambier at the time the fire went through.
"We were about to bulldoze a lot of young trees, when we came up with a better idea - Christmas trees," he said.
"It turned out to be a popular idea after such a devastating event and that's when we decided to start the business - hence the 'Blue Lake' name reference."
RELATED READING:Rural SA spreads Christmas joy | PHOTOS
Jo said it was very hard work in the beginning as they were selling thousands of trees wholesale into Vic and SA.
Even after moving to the Adelaide Hills more than 20 years ago, and deciding to only sell "a few trees" out of their home depot, Christmas can be a stressful time for the family, when everyone still works full time.
"But we love the social aspect of what we do," Hamish said.
"People love coming up to our Christmas tree drive thru, many make it an annual pilgrimage."
"We also love that when people first came, their children were very young, and now they're either teenagers or young adults, plus they have watched our children grow - it's really nice," Jo said.
ONLINE ORDERS INCREASE
Fellow Adelaide Hills Christmas Trees seller Steve Roberts, Strathalbyn, agreed this year had been very busy, but this time of year always was.
He was out delivering the last of his Christmas trees this week.
"Our online deliveries sold out by the end of October, which is normal, but our walk-ins to our depot sold out on December 5 - which is early," he said.
"People started ordering in September, which also isn't unusual, but there was significantly more online orders this year than previously.
People started ordering in September, which also isn't unusual, but there was significantly more online orders this year than previously.
"We used to be around 20 per cent online orders, now it's about 80pc.
"Rather than driving up the hill to choose one and risking them being sold out, they are choosing click and collect to ensure they get one.
"Unfortunately it has meant that our 'spare' trees at the depot are becoming less and less."
Mr Roberts normally sells in excess of 1000 trees each year, online and out of a depot at Adelaide Hills Garden Supply Centre in Verdun.
"I love seeing people choose their trees, the smiles on their faces when they take in that smell and get a feel for a tree, it makes people happy and it's a very happy time," he said.
"People say I need to grow more trees next year, but it's not that simple - it takes five years to grow a tree, so next year's trees were planted back in 2016."
Mr Roberts has been growing Christmas trees for 15 years, starting with a few trees in his old driveway in the Adelaide Hills.
- Start the day with all the big news in agriculture. Sign up here to receive our daily Stock Journal newsletter.