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Millennials Prefer Plastic (Trees)
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Cash is no longer king. Long ago, consumers collectively began the unstoppable shift towards a virtually cash-less society, as myriad payment methods have replaced the nasty business of carrying around paper currency. We are progressing nicely, but this is not exactly big news.

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Learning about the trend with regard to consumers preferring plastic versus authentic Christmas trees, however, did surprise me.  Many have shifted their buying preferences towards plastic christmas trees, eschewing the traditional, farm-raised variety. In fact, out of 95 million households displaying trees at Christmas in the U.S., only 19 percent of them are real these days. That is interesting. But of course it is very bad news for tree growers, and it is a quandary for marketers who are convinced that Millennials in particular prefer things that are authentic, artisinal, hand-crafted, small-batch, locally-grown, etc., etc.

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To be sure, it isn't just the 18-36 year-old Millennial age cohort driving this very inauthentic trend. Generation X and the older Baby Boomer generation began the shift towards buying artificial trees in the 90's (after more than five decades of frenzied authentic tree-buying by their forebearers). The 90's was the decade that brought us Chinese and other large-scale foreign maunfacturing, and thus cheap fake trees hit the U.S. market en masse. 

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Now, consumers prefer plastic. Clearly the hassles and costs of not having a real tree, despite the fact that these natural marvels are a very environmentally-sustainable product, outweigh any satisfaction that perceived authenticity might provide for today's socially-conscious consumer. Or perhaps, folks erroneously believe that real trees are bad for the environment when in fact these real trees are grown in soil unsuitable for most crops, require comparatively little water, are replaced by seedlings and clones when they are harvested, provide a source of income for rural Americans, and are generally uplifiting to have around during the dark days of winter. In addition, the used trees are ground into mulch at the end of the product's usage cycle. It doesn't get a whole lot more sustainable/socially-responsible than that. But the fact of the matter is that, even if consumers are aware of environmental or social benefits, most research proves that variables such as cost and convenience (and quality) almost always trump environmental-friendliness and social responsibility when it comes to consumer decision-making. So this shift in behavior despite prevailing attitudes about the enfironemnt even among the progressive young, really shouldn't be all that surprising after all.

 

Discussion: If you are a consumer of Christmas trees, do you prefer authentic or plastic? What are the reasons for your decision? Does sustainability/social responsibility come into play? Do you see things turning around for tree growers?