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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 22, 2003

$1 Christmas trees — for real!

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

A glut of Christmas trees gave some last-minute Santas a break at the cash register this year.

Tom Totab, a customer-service associate at Lowe's Home Improvement in Waikele, loads a tree for a customer. Trees that sold for $54 on Friday, went for $1 on Saturday.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

Priscilla Chang and her daughter, Jo Ann, got their trees at Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse — for only $1 each.

"How can you go wrong?" Priscilla Chang said. "These are Noble Firs, 6 to 7 feet, and they are so fresh!"

Until Friday night, the price for the trees was $54.

Chris Uehara, assistant store manager, said the tremendous markdown was necessary to keep the trees moving out the door.

"Yes, we lose money," he said. "But it is better than throwing them away."

Star Market at King and Beretania streets also marked their trees down at the end of the week.

Beginning Thursday, about 40 trees were priced at $5. By Saturday, only three lonely, parched specimens leaned against an outer wall in the market's garden area.

"They need to be put in a tree stand with water," said Greg Osterman, a Star Market garden clerk. "They need someone to take care of them."

Back to back rainy weekends at the beginning of Christmas tree season and overstocked independent tree sellers left this year's tree market glutted, retailers said. Even those who ordered the same amount as last year, including Lowe's, were left holding the bag.

Brandon Nagamine, a Lowe's sales associate in the garden department, said customers were stunned when told that the price had dropped to a dollar.

"They say: No! For real?" he said.

Those with trucks or larger cars got on their cell phones to tell their friends and family, then loaded up, he said.

Lucia Bartels picked up one tree for her home, then called her sister to see if she wanted one, too.

"She didn't have one because all her kids are gone from the house," Bartels said. "But she wanted one."

Bartels had heard of the $1, unadvertised price while shopping at another store. She had been close to buying a $50 artificial tree when a fellow shopper tipped her off.

An hour later, she and her grandchildren were happily packing two large trees out the door.

Reach Karen Blakeman at 535-2430 or kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.