2020 has been a year with many unexpected twists and as the holidays approach, the pandemic is impacting companies differently when it comes to their holiday services.
Residential Holiday Lighting
Senske Services, based in Kennewick, Washington, which is a Christmas Décor franchisee, serves mostly residential clients, but they also do commercial spaces such as malls, casinos, HOAs and the like.
President Chris Senske says they have had great sales opportunities earlier this season. The company starts selling holiday décor reinstallations in March giving people the opportunity to make installment payments throughout the year. Senske says they had about 50 percent of their clients committed to installing décor by July.
He also says their renewals are stronger than ever and they’ve confirmed a record number of return customers who want their holiday decorating reinstalled.
“There is a steady flow of inquiries this year even before marketing efforts hit mailboxes,” Senske says. “We expect to increase sales by about 20 percent in 2020 decorating season.”
Meanwhile, a Blade of Grass, LLC, based in Sudbury, Massachusetts, who mostly serves residential clients is planning to increase their marketing due to increased interest in holiday lighting this year.
“I’m definitely predicting that we’re going to more requests for holiday lighting,” says Heather Lashbrook Jones, director of marketing, and senior account manager of maintenance for a Blade of Grass. “I think this year with the pandemic and everything and people spending more time at home, or wanting to just do something special for themselves, they’re going to want to brighten up their yards or their property.”
Jones has also noticed that vendors are carrying different brands of lights and they’re a little more expensive
“I think there’s going be a shortage of lights,” Jones says. “I think they’re going to go quick and I think it’s going to be an issue because we’ve been seeing that with plant material all year. Bulbs have sold out quicker than they ever have and even the annuals too. So I’m guessing the same thing is going happen with holiday lights and the winter greens if you think about it.”
Commercial Holiday Decorating
Demand on the commercial side when it comes to holiday decorating has been much more subdued.
Craig Lustig, LIC, president of Anything Groes, based in Crestwood, Kentucky, says even after the tragic events of 9/11 and the Great Recession businesses always spent money on holiday decorating.
“People always spent money on Christmas, and never spent less on Christmas and they always spent the same, if not more,” Lustig says. “It was just something that was so important to businesses at that time of year to spread happiness. This is the first year where people have paused or even cut back just a little bit on what they’re doing. Primarily, in some instances, it’s because there’s nobody in the office, or there’s very few people in the office. So, they’re just like, ‘Well, why do we need to do Christmas if they’re not around?’ This is the first time that’s happened since I’ve been doing it. That’s 21 years that I’ve seen any kind of a pullback.”
He says most of the pullback is on the commercial side with interiors. The HOAs he works with are still wanting to decorate their exteriors.
Chris Raimondi, LIC, president and CEO of Raimondi Horticultural Group, Inc. based in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, says they’re concerned as well about interior holiday décor. He says their clients do not see the point in decorating for Christmas if no one is in the office.
“We do have some booked already,” Raimondi says. “Our biggest one is booked. It’s half inside, half outside. It’s going to happen because the building is open.”
Senske says he’s seen budgets decreased for commercial accounts, but others are finding opportunities due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“One professional sports team is considering having a drive-thru lighting display in their parking garage in lieu of a Christmas party,” Senske says. “That would be a very fun project to do hopefully building on a longer-term relationship or convert it to a public display in the future.”
Selling, Marketing and Scheduling
When it comes to selling, marketing and scheduling holiday lighting services the practices are the same as any other year.
“I don’t think we have to really sell it too much,” Jones says. “It sells itself. Some beautiful photos showing what we do and usually people get pretty excited.”
Senske says the main selling points they share with potential clients include professional turnkey installation, takedown and storage and customer-wowing displays that create a magical, festive impression.
“It is important to know what people are buying: design and installation expertise and mostly convenience,” he says. “Storage is an important part of the convenience. Discounts are not necessarily important though it is important to have a marketing message that attracts a potential customer to respond to your offering. Keeping Papa off the roof is worth a lot to a family.”
Senske says they had one homeowner call them for help to finish installing their lights, as their husband had fallen. He says the head injuries the husband sustained made the cost of doing the lights look like a bargain.
When it comes to scheduling, Senske and Jones says they both don’t have cutoff dates for customers who want holiday lighting. Senske says they’ve installed lights the week before Christmas because celebration plans have changed and family are now coming.
“If somebody comes in the last minute, we’ll do everything we possibly can to fit them into our schedule,” Jones says. “However, it does get challenging, because everyone usually wants it all set up right at Thanksgiving. Most of the time they want to be able to turn the lights on the day after Thanksgiving. We just really try really hard to get everybody on the schedule when they want it. We’re fortunate enough to have enough crews up working that we can do that.”