Holiday decorating extends season of green for landscapers, other businesses

Detroit Free PressDecember 20, 2013 

Antelmo Gonzales of Michigan Holiday Lighting puts the finishing touches on decorations on a 3,500-square-foot home in Clarkston, Mich., earlier this month. Different businesses — including landscapers, florists and interior designers — have seized an opportunity to make money by stringing lights and offering exterior and interior decorating assistance.

ANDRE J. JACKSON/DETROIT FREE PRESS

JT Luginski has had it with putting up — and taking down — holiday lights and decorations.

“I’ve always celebrated Christmas with the family,” the 33-year-old father said this week, recalling how growing up his dad would put up the holiday lights each year. “But it became harder to find the time to do the decorating myself, and, honestly, a professional can do a better job.”

So last year Luginski ended the holiday decorating tradition and hired Michigan Holiday Lighting to cover his 3,500-square-foot brick colonial in Clarkston, Mich., with thousands of white lights — and is paying them about $1,700 to do it again his year.

The trend is driven by busier family schedules, changing attitudes about holiday decorating and enterprising businesses — including landscapers, florists and interior designers — that have seized an opportunity to make money.

When Indianapolis-based online referral service Angie’s List started tracking holiday decorators in 1990, it identified just 42 nationally. This year, it said, there are 7,073 nationwide.

“There’s a lot of pain when you do decorate yourself,” said Brandon Stephens, president of Texas-based Christmas Decor. “But when you hire someone, you get someone who is trained, who knows the newest products and the newest designs.”

Companies charge anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars to decorate for homeowners, and in many cases the lights are leased and stored by the holiday decorator.

Christmas Decor, which was a lawn care business that started offering holiday decorating in 1986 as a way to offset the lull in the winter, ended up shedding the lawn care business to focus on decorating full time and selling franchises.

The company now has $55 million in annual sales with about 370 operations nationwide.

Alex Grougan, the owner of Holiday Light Express in Novi, Mich., said his business has exploded since he started it six years ago, as a way to expand his lawn care business. A few homeowners — mostly in upscale neighborhoods — even paid him to decorate the inside of their homes, with Christmas trees and fresh garland.

Florists also have also found a growing demand for holiday decorating. “We’ve got more and more members who go to houses and create a special environment for the holidays,” said Rodney Crittenden, executive vice president of the Michigan Floral Association in Haslett, Mich. “It could be to put up a fully decorated tree — or just some wreaths and plants.”

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