|Professional decorators can light
up holidays at a price
|By Kay Bell
It's the most wonderful time of the year, unless you're
the one assigned the task of untangling the lights, balancing on
the ladder and spending hours hanging and rearranging your home's
exterior holiday decorations.
Sure, a lot of folks actually look forward to taking
care of the outside adornment duties themselves. But for those of
us with limited handyman skills, and even less time, there's not
enough egg nog around to make decking the outside of our homes a
If you're in the latter category, then this might
be the year to give yourself the gift of hiring a Christmas lighting
pro. But make your decision soon. Some companies are already stringing
lights, and most are booked for the season by mid-November.
And be sure to budget for the brilliance to cover
both installation costs and your electric bill. Depending on just
how large a display you want, hiring a holiday decorator could eat
up a big part of your Christmas club savings.
A growing, glowing business
Many holiday decorating companies evolved as offshoots of landscaping
enterprises looking to expand business year-round. Since they couldn't
mow or fertilize or plant in the dead of winter in most places,
holiday decorations seemed like a natural next step. The popularity
of holiday lighting, however, has prompted some companies to focus
only on that service.
Brad Finkle began decorating houses as a hobby while
still a teenager. When he saw the amount of neighborly interest
in his handiwork -- "They'd say, 'You know what? I can't get
my husband outside to do anything. Would you mind?'" -- he
knew it could succeed as a business.
He was right. For 25 years, Finkle's Creative
Decorating has been a full-time holiday lighting company in
Omaha, Neb., and a busy company at that. "We hang close to
1 million lights each season," says Finkle. And in the off-season,
there's removing the lights, inventorying, repairing and storing
them and consulting with others who want to start similar businesses.
Decor also lends wannabe decorators a hand, says Brandon Stephens
marketing director. The Lubbock, Texas-based company opened in 1986
as a winter component to an original lawn-care business but now
specializes in holiday lighting displays for homes and businesses.
It began franchising in 1996 and now has 375 operations in 48 states,
Canada and Bermuda.
Anthony Minotti owns a landscape business in Austin,
Texas, but not a run-of-the-mill lawn service. Got Lights concentrates
only on landscape lighting, and when Minotti started the company
seven years ago, holiday lighting was part of the plan from day
one. This Christmas season he expects his company will decorate
around 200 homes.