-- The family trek to the Christmas tree farm has a competitor that's getting special buzz this season: the Internet.
Some retailers' websites, including Target, Costco and, on board this week, Sears and Kmart, are hawking freshly cut Christmas trees delivered door to door anywhere in the 48 contiguous states.
No, the Norman Rockwellesque vision of the family piling into the car to go cut down a live tree from the Christmas tree farm — or even picking one out at the local lot — isn't fading away.
Online sales of cut trees are still a fraction of the 27 million-plus Christmas trees expected to be purchased this year, says the National Christmas Tree Association. Some 33% of folks still trek to the choose-and-cut farms, the group says.
But online tree sales — which at Sears costs as much as $189.99 for a nine-foot Fraser fir tree from North Carolina— are becoming a lucrative business for some big chains. Some retailer sites cajole shoppers to purchase a tree even as folks sign on to just to purchase ornaments.
Not everyone is keen on this trend. "It's a sad reflection of where American society is going," says Lisa Mastny, a spokeswoman for The Center for a New American Dream, a non-profit group that encourages a less product-focused seasonal celebration.
DeVere Keen Gamble, a massage therapist from Durango, Col., says she would never order a tree online. "If you're too busy to go out and get your Christmas tree, then you're too busy, period."
Not so, says Jennifer Dominiquini, marketing chief for seasonal and outdoor living at Sears. "We're trying to give every consumer the opportunity to shop how, when and where they want," she says. The time saved can mean extra family time to decorate a tree, she says.
Target began selling cut trees online last year. Costco is in its third season. Neither would divulge tree sales data.
Cut trees bought online are a "small, niche market," says Rick Dungey, a Christmas tree association spokesman. "But if you're a 24-year-old, and you're just starting a household, you've been buying things online a long time."