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Shipping crisis leading to shortage of artificial Christmas trees, decorations

Supply experts say these popular holiday items could be hard to find by mid-November.

HOUSTON — Christmas is right around the corner. But if an artificial tree is on your list this year, then your gift might come in late. 

The program director for UH Supply Chain and Logistics Technology says the trees and Christmas decorations are two of the many shortages to come from the pandemic.

"The COVID pandemic has really created disruption in supply chains for just about every product that's out there," Director Margaret Kidd said. "What's happened is you've had factories overseas in Asia close and reopen, you've had port congestion, you've had a shortage of workers whether it was on the docks or driving the trucks."

Kidd says the shortages and slow deliveries will continue until the COVID curve is flattened. Until then, businesses around the world will be impacted, including stores in Houston.

Steve Hwang owns Holiday Tree in northwest Houston. He makes artificial trees overseas and ships them worldwide. Hwang said it's been challenging to make up for lost inventory and price hikes due to the supply crisis.

"One-third of our inventory couldn't arrive, we couldn't find affordable shipping lines," Hwang said. "About 3 months ago, the oil price started to increase. So ocean shipping, plus ground shipping increased and the raw material."

As a result, Hwang said he has to pay shipping costs have tripled.

"On average, it would be $5,000 from door to door, from the factory to our warehouse in Houston. And now, on average, it's costing $15,000," he said.

Experts say people should shop early to get an artificial Christmas tree and decorations. 

Hwang said the shortage could reach its peak by mid-November. He's also making sure that all of his customers have their trees delivered and twinkling in time for the holidays.

"We know that Christmas happens once a year," Hwang said. "We are dedicated to doing whatever it takes to let them celebrate with a great tree and have joy with their families."