Dubai: Satwa’s Christmas tree sellers are bracing themselves for a busy weekend, as those looking for a bargain leave it right until up the last minute to get their hands on a real fir.
Prices have dropped since November 25 when the trucks first gathered along Al Hudaiba Street and now a six foot tree that would have cost you about Dh500 three weeks ago can be picked up for as little as Dh300, with a base to stand it in for an additional Dh100.
Ghattas Loutfi Hannah from the National Flower store is still holding out at around the Dh400 mark for a tree of the same size, because the Orthodox Christmas – mostly celebrated by Dubai’s Russian community - is two weeks after December 25, on January 7, therefore the demand remains, he argues.
“We will be here until January 5 or 6 and have been here every day from 8am to 10pm since November 25,” he said. “We started with 600 trees and now have about 100 left.
“Prices have dropped,” he added. “A six foot tree is around Dh400, we had a three-metre tree, which started at Dh3,500 and that is now Dh1,900.”
Rafi from the Madina Gardens truck parked nearby agrees, “It depended on the size but at the beginning of the month we had trees for Dh700 to Dh800 but now we only have the small sizes remaining at Dh300. We started with around 300 to 400 trees and now have around 100 left,” he added.
The trees are of the noble fir variety from the US, Canada and Denmark, and traders shipped them into the UAE in containers of around 300 to 500 trees depending on size at a cost of US$35,000 (Dh128,554).
“Once you factor in customs clearance costs of Dh1,000, and fines, because trucks can’t park here, it’s not actually that much (profit),” said Ghattas, who has been selling from this location for 15 years.
“We sell at, at least, 10 per cent (of the actual cost), some make 15-20 per cent more, and this is to cover the costs. I’ve paid Dh2,500 in parking fines and if you put a tree down on the pavement, you could get a Dh10,000 fine, so it’s very difficult. People come late to try and get a bargain, but we can’t go too low.”
Rafi, who has sold from this spot for the last 25 years, says if they don’t sell the trees they will have to throw them.
Advice to keep your tree fresh
“People prefer coming to Satwa because they expect a better price and we open every tree in front of people before they buy so they can choose the exact shape and size before it’s tied,” he said.
Ghattas added, “We get all sorts of customers, mostly Russian, Lebanese and westerners, but also locals too, mostly if they are married to other nationalities, but not always. Some people just like to keep a tree.”
Christmas tree sellers said pouring lemonade into the base with ice would keep it fresh up until the end of January. Others rejected the lemonade and ice theory and said that simple water with a few tablespoons of sugar would be enough. Canadian trees were preferred by customers because they have off a better smell, said the traders.