More than two months before Christmas Day, Lowe’s announced it will offer free delivery of live Christmas trees for customers who order online—and spend at least $45—this season.
Consumers who visit a dedicated page on Lowes.com can search by tree height, species, price, rating and the number of lights and ornaments required to decorate it. Delivery started Oct. 30, but as of Nov. 3, it was unavailable in multiple parts of the country, according to a company statement. A spokesperson said availability “may differ depending on your region,” and noted Lowe’s will not deliver trees to Alaska or Hawaii.
This year, Home Depot is also offering online reservations and free delivery for fresh-cut Christmas trees. While a spokesperson said the home improvement retailer launched tree delivery in 2018, it actually dates back to at least 2013 when Home Depot partnered with Uber for an on-demand Christmas tree delivery service called UberTrees. The ride-sharing platform has since offered it in multiple cities around the world with various partners.
A sign of the times
According to Claire Tassin, director analyst at Gartner, it’s going to be a hard retail season. Retailers are “making decisions that make sense for [them] and the risk factors that [they] can tolerate and what [they] think [their] customers need.”
That means continuing to strike a balance between tradition and safety, much like Lowe’s and Walmart did with trick-or-treat events for Halloween—and as Macy’s, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s are hoping to do with Santa for Christmas.
And if Christmas tree delivery brings peace of mind to consumers, Dave Nielsen, president of retail at Overstock.com, said, “I can understand why retailers are looking at creative ways to minimize the need for in-person transactions.”
So if there was ever a time for online Christmas tree orders to take off, it’s 2020.
“If there’s going to be a year for ordering live trees for home delivery sight unseen, this will be the year for that,” Tassin said.
There are a few reasons beyond the pandemic itself. For one, it’s been a big year for online grocery, which has undoubtedly paved the way for Christmas trees.
“There was a time that folks would say, ‘I would never trust somebody else to pick out my onions and fresh fruits and vegetables,’ and now I think that’s becoming very much the norm,” said Jason Woosley, vice president of commerce product and platform at Adobe.
Consumers are also getting more comfortable making high-consideration purchases online.
“Certainly the high-end extreme of this is the ability to buy a Tesla from your mobile app, which is a couple of clicks and it’ll deliver it to your house,” Woosley said.
Striking a balance between tradition and safety
How to sell Christmas trees is the latest decision retailers have had to make in order to safely fulfill customer needs during a pandemic, although the holiday season arguably ups the ante. Now, they have to determine how to “[deliver] this experience for customers in a way that is safe and meaningful where it still kind of fits with the celebratory nature of the season and doesn’t [bring] more of the doom and gloom while still very much recognizing the reality that we’re living through a pandemic,” Tassin said.
Maintaining in-person experiences could actually be a competitive advantage as Gartner research shows consumers are growing tired of doing everything digitally.
Tassin noted Target is offering the ability to reserve a time to shop in stores to limit the number of customers—and retailers could offer something similar for their tree lots. Then, shoppers would have to decide for themselves whether the bigger risk is to have an online tree that might not be as perfect as the one they would have picked out themselves or if it’s going to a crowded tree lot during a pandemic.