Let there be Christmas lights! Just let someone else climb that 30-foot ladder to hang them up.
Hanging holiday lights outdoors is a family tradition that has grown so large and daunting that some Americans are outsourcing the task to landscaping companies that seek to brighten their ledgers in the off season.
In 2014, Christmas Decor, a company based in Lubbock, Texas, and its franchises, decked the homes of 50,000 families across 300 markets in the US and Canada. In the Northeast, displays started going up this year around the second week in October.
“It all boils down to convenience, time, and results,” says Brandon Stephens, president of Christmas Décor in an interview. “It used to be just commercial properties but now home owners want their properties to shine. We supply everything, install it, maintain it, and take it down.”
Christmas Decor switched its business model from seasonal and starving through these lean months to using their ladders and know-how to install lights as a second seasonal business back in 1986. The company began offering franchises in 1996, according to Mr. Stephens.
“We get a lot of landscapers, pest control, construction, and plenty of firemen who want to make some money installing lights,” he says. “Clients love it. It’s fun and people are willing to pay good money for it.”
In general, basic light installations range from $300-$600 for a small home, but the larger the home and more ornate the display, the more expensive.
“We’ve had some of the more elaborate displays go north of $50,000. It’s nothing on a scale with Clark Griswald,” According to Stephens, “It’s just when you get into bigger properties and start individual branch wrapping trees, adding elements like Santa on a motorcycle and nativities, it gets way up there before you know it.”
While many homeowners still insist on the year going out in a blaze of festive glory they have wrought with their own hands, like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation character Clark Griswold, this is a milder form of one-upping the neighbors.
“Hiring someone to do your lights follows the same pattern with anything else of keeping up with the Joneses,” says Patrick McGrath owner of Affordable Hardscapes of Virginia in Virginia Beach, in an interview. “This is our fourth holiday season. It came about because the majority of our business is outdoor living and there’s a time pretty much from the week before Thanksgiving to New Year where nobody wants such work being done at their home. So we were looking for ways to supplement our income and provide a service.”
Mr. McGrath adds that it also helps keep homeowners safer during the holidays since, “Homes keep getting higher and the average homeowner doesn’t have a ladder and the wherewithal to climb up 35-40 feet in the air.”
What might be called lightscapers are so popular that Angie’s List even has a category for holiday lighting decorators.
Stephens says that styles are changing, “it was all about clear and warm white lights years and years, but now color is coming back.”
“Now we’re seeing the reincorporation of color,” he adds. “RGB chips make lights any color with your iPhone controlling it. That’s getting popular.”
This year Christmas Decor acquired Barcana, a brand that makes “live forms” meaning life-size nativities and silhouettes that light up.
Stephens notes that his firm has been getting more requests for religious displays for homes and businesses.