According to Hendricks, there are two other major client bases in the holiday lighting market. One is the high-end residential market, upper income families who want their second and third homes lit up for the holidays.
In Spanish Fork, Utah, Zack Forbush, owner of Orion Holiday Lighting, specializes in this particular market. Forbush has more time than most to get everything in place; when other companies are starting to advertise in mid-September, he’s already installing.
It’s just as well, because there’s a lot of work to be done. These jobs can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars, and call for a similarly epic volume of lights. Forbush has to balance his Thanksgiving deadlines against the natural timelines of deciduous trees. Installing 11,000 lights on a tree that hasn’t lost its leaves can be enough to keep it from going dormant, with disastrous effects.
“Instead of hand-unwrapping the strands off of a tree or a roof, they just go in with shears, and cut the strands every two feet,” said Hendricks. “Then from there, to strip it off a tree is quick and easy.” That time savings may not mean much on a small scale, but over the course of several large jobs, it can make all the difference. Weighed against the risk of a scheduling screw-up that switching to LED would bring, it’s a small wonder that they’re slow to change.
The final segment of the holiday lighting market is commercial; business owners who are looking to create an attraction and bring in holiday shoppers. For some of these commercial and municipal customers, incandescent lights are still king. Large contracts are often multi-year, and the contractors who win them have had time to get their designs and schedules all dialed in. For them, incandescents offer convenience and speedy takedowns.
Even so, Carrie Erzinger, holiday décor manager for Kinnucan Tree Experts and Landscape Company in Lake Bluff, Illinois, persists in recommending LED lighting to her clients.
For her, the benefits outweigh the slower pace. “It’s cheaper electricitywise; you can connect numerous strands together—it just makes life easier,” she said.
Her company started getting into lights when the founder, Bob Kinnucan, helped set up a local shopping area. Now they offer wreaths, garlands and winter interest pots, in addition to the usual array of lights.
According to Erzinger, some of the municipalities she contracts with can spend a fortune on holiday decorations for their downtown areas.
“They can be spending $50,000 a year; that would be a whole downtown or a village, all their public trees,” she said.
Most of these large contracts go to bid during the summer. For smaller, residential contracts, she usually starts marketing after Labor Day. She sends out door-to-door direct mail, postcards targeted along postal routes, places ads in local magazines and papers, and email campaigns.
When the calls start to come in, the biggest risk factor in Erzinger’s estimation is the weather; snowstorms can easily mess with her schedule. Furthermore, if the connections or the electrical boxes aren’t watertight, there’s a slight chance that water-heavy snows can breach them and blow fuses.
Sadly, there isn’t a good fix to this problem. A waterproof container over the electrical box is a good start, but it only covers one point of failure. Taping the connections in place sounds intuitive, but just isn’t feasible for a 250-strand tree decoration.
When the weather gets wet, expect more service calls.