The lucrative lives of professional Christmas decorators, who charge as much as $80,000 to deck a house's halls and say business is booming this year

  • Professional Christmas decorators charge anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars to deck their clients' halls. 
  • In 2020, decorators told Business Insider, business is booming.
  • Canceled vacations and other costly pastimes foregone due to the coronavirus pandemic, the decorators said, have resulted in extra money that families are using to add festive cheer to their homes during a hard year. Orders came in as early as September.
  • The decorators told Business Insider how setting up trees, wreaths, and lights is a year-round gig that is both emotionally rewarding and financially lucrative. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

For some, decorating for Christmas is a family affair. For others, it's a job — and a lucrative one, at that.

The professionals who make decking the halls for the holidays their life's work told Business Insider that they can rake in upwards of $10,000 per home.

This year, especially, business is booming.

Richard Johns, who owns Christmas Decor of New Jersey, a decorating business whose clients live in affluent suburbs surrounding New York, says his gig has proved particularly profitable during 2020.

All year long the self-described "head elf" juggles bookings, trade shows, and maintenance of his treasure trove of supplies. This year's bump in business, according to Johns, is because some households have extra funds that they might have spent on travel were it not for the coronavirus pandemic.

"This year, no one took the family to Disney for $15,000," Johns said. "That vacation to Vail or Aspen isn't happening." 

The Christmas Decorators, the UK's top firm, said their clients pay as much as $80,000 to outsource their festive-season needs.The Christmas Decorators

Even money saved on daily commutes — because many of his clients can work remotely — means more to spend on aesthetic delights that makes people feel good while still staying at home.

This season, Johns reports that average amount clients spent per home jumped by about about $400. Whereas clients were paying roughly $2,200 before to decorate the exterior of a 3,000-square-foot house, they're now shelling out closer to $2,600.

"If the house is much larger than that," Johns added, "then the budgets are much larger than that" — with some clients spending upwards of $15,000 on decorations each year.

Christmas Decor of New Jersey is a soup-to-nuts shop, so that fee includes the leasing of the decorations themselves — including objects like lights, wreaths, and timers — as well as their installation, upkeep, and removal.

Many of the company's clients are couples in their 30s and 40s, who "move out of the city into these areas and don't even own a 40-foot ladder," Johns said. Over the last few decades, Johns added, homes have trended larger, with higher ceilings, making it harder for people to decorate the exteriors themselves.

"It's different from our parents, who had a 25-foot ladder and were able to do all of this stuff," Johns said. "The scale of what homes are today? It's just a different package."

Customers also called to request their halls be decked earlier than usual this year, Johns said, because they wanted to amp up the Christmas cheer to lift spirits during tough COVID-19 times.

"We're selling an emotional product," Johns said. "People are spending a lot of time at home, and what we can do is change someone's attitude, or the way they feel coming into their house."

To kit out her house in Fort Worth, Texas, suburbs, Linda Morogiello has hired Christina Lane of McKenzie Grace Weddings, Events, and Designs for the past three holiday seasons.

Having her Christmas decorations handled by a pro "makes me enjoy the holidays," Morogiello told Business Insider. "It's really given me a sense of relief." She described herself as a Type-A obsessive who harps on small details, but added that handing off her holiday decorating tasks has allowed her to enjoy the season stress-free.

For $800, Lane festooned Morogiello's front porch with new wreaths, garlands, and lights. Morogiello also hired Lane to trim her Christmas tree for an additional $120 using decorations she already owned. Morogiello considered $920 a steal for the service she received, and plans to use McKenzie Grace for more interior decorations next year. In fact, Morogiello added, she's already on the company's books for the first week of November 2021. 

This year alone, Lane's decorated over 200 trees in the Dallas-Forth Worth area.

Business has "kind of exploded since COVID actually, but I thought it would be the exact opposite," Lane said, adding that she decorated her first tree of the season on September 2.

Celebrities, too, outsource their holiday glowups to the pros. 

David and Victoria Beckham tap The Christmas Decorators to bring in Santa, reindeer, and carolers for Christmas each year. Every season, the UK-based company — which has more than 50 offices across the country and one in Aspen, Colorado — also decks out the Buckinghamshire home of Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. 

"We're famous for the opulence and luxury touches that we provide," said Ged Comerford, operational director of The Christmas Decorators. Opulent examples include adorning trees with 22-karat baubles as well as setting up ice-skating rinks and carousels on clients' front lawns.

Some clients spend £500 or £600 (about $670 to $804) to deck their halls, while others splash out anywhere from £50,000 to £60,000 (about $66,987 to $80,384).

The average household is spending $400 more on average this year, according to Johns of Christmas Decor of New Jersey.Christmas Decor of New Jersey"It's a bit like walking into a florist to build a bouquet," Comerford said. "The first thing the florist is going to ask you is, 'How much do you want to spend?' Because that depends on what your bouquet is going to look like." 

This year, Comerford said they're seeing more "regular households" with extra discretionary income to spend on decorating due to the pandemic putting the kibosh on traditional high-cost family activities like big trips.

"It's a very rewarding business to be in," Comerford said. "To put smiles on peoples' faces is a joyous thing, isn't it?"

"Of course," he added, "it's also a very lucrative business as well."

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