Families seeking festive cheer amidst the toughest of years have unwittingly contributed to a shortage of Christmas trees.
Garden centres across the north and north-east have seen supplies dwindle at an unprecedented rate.
The heartache and disruption of Covid-19, coupled with fears over potential tier changes, have prompted many to secure their trees as early as possible.
Others have simply been seeking to add some brightness to homes whose four walls have become all too familiar, with a huge surge in demand during the first week of December.
With many garden centres requiring to secure stock months in advance for the festive season, the rush to secure a real tree has left many with minimal supplies.
The manager of one Aberdeenshire-based garden centre said: “The truth of it is we have almost created this problem ourselves.
“Everyone has been stuck in their homes for so much longer than expected there is now that ‘lets get sorted-out for Christmas’ vibe.
“I think people have also been moving more quickly to secure a tree because there has been that constant threat of lockdown or tier changes.”
Forestry and Land Scotland’s Tyrebagger Christmas Tree booking system had been so popular that all of their 3,000 slots were allocated within days of it going live.
Introduced this year to help keep people safe and reduce the transmission of Covid-19 at the centre near Aberdeen, the system required people to pre-book a time slot before collecting a tree.
Fiona Robertson, area visitor services manager, said: “We did expect demand to be high but we were totally gobsmacked at how quickly the slots disappeared.
“We would really have liked to welcome all of our customers to Tyrebagger but I’m sure everyone will understand that this year it just wasn’t possible.”
Other centres across the north-east cited said that as the forest-based centre began running out of trees, demand for their own swiftly increased.
Gordon Henderson, owner of Foxlane Garden Centre in Westhill, said: “Usually we sell around 50 trees a year, but we sold 60 within the first week of the month.
“No-one can get trees from the Tyrebagger centre, so they are going everywhere else.
“Because of the virus it has been hard to gauge how many trees we should get in and as we order our trees months in advance, it is too late now to get any more in.”
In the Highlands, however, several garden centres anticipated the spike in demand and as such adjusted their orders earlier in the year.
Plant manager at Howdens garden centre in Inverness, Shaw Fraser, said: “I would say they are selling more quickly than they do usually but we still have some stock.
“We pre-empted that there would be a bigger demand for them this year, so we ordered more.
“I think with the year that everyone has had, and with the money some have been able to save what with not going on holiday, they have decided to push the boat out a little.”