Like many other landscaping companies that got into the holiday lighting business, SeaScape Inc., based in Coventry, Rhode Island, was trying to find a way to keep its employees working longer into the season.
“We could have upwards of a four to five-month layoff periods,” said Seth Wilson, director of sales and marketing for SeaScape Inc. “We would have to lay off our workers and then they wouldn’t come back in the spring.”
SeaScape decided to franchise with Christmas Décor around 14 years ago and since then it’s grown into a stand-alone business for the company.
Wilson advises other landscaping companies that are considering adding the service to be prepared for the business to grow.
“Your employees who are currently working, whether they’re mowing or doing something else, they’re going to be busy when your lighting needs to be starting,” he said. “It happens very quickly and you need to be ready for it.”
Wilson says the company has around 200 customers, with around 60 percent being residential and 40 percent being commercial, but the more profitable jobs come from the commercial side.
The company has $500 minimum for jobs due to the short season and the amount of time it takes to visit the property and decorate it.
“Anything less than that is just cost prohibitive,” Wilson said.
The renewal process for repeat customers starts as early as June and July, and SeaScape offers the clients prepay and early installation discounts. Wilson says they will start doing new advertising in October, but peak selling season starts in November.
While some companies may have cut off dates as for when it is too late to hire them for holiday lights, SeaScape tries to never tell a customer they are out of luck.
“We’ve had people wait until Dec. 23 before,” Wilson said. “It was a summer home and they had a change of plans, but we do what we can. Inventory can become problematic, so if we’ve done our job properly, we may not have a 60-inch wreath, but we do have a 40-inch wreath or we may not have colored lights but we still have warm white lights.”
However, procrastinators like these are rare and most who have delayed until the second week of December will generally not see the value in putting up lights so late and will wait until next year, Wilson says.
Once a customer is on board to have their house decorated, SeaScape works with the client to give them a custom design with their input.
“We show them a portfolio of our work,” Wilson said. “We find out what they like, what they don’t like and if there is a unique rooftop or specialty tree they want to highlight.”
Wilson says the company charges by line item pricing so each design item, whether it be roof line lights or shrub lights, have specific prices.
“It’s not an all or nothing situation,” he said. “Our design software allows us to take a picture of their house and then show them what it will look like with the various line items installed, so they can pick and choose what they want.”
When it comes to designing for holiday lighting, Wilson advises including various elements so there is depth. The two most popular items are roof lines and large specimen trees, and this is because these are the decorations homeowners struggle to do themselves.
Wilson says the three main reasons why holiday lighting as a service is so popular are: convenience, safety and the desire for a beautiful home.
For SeaScape, the installation process is generally conducted in two phases with the roof lights, tree lights and shrub lights all being installed earlier in the season when the weather is still nice in September. Then around Thanksgiving, the crews will return to install holiday related items such as wreaths or garlands, window lights and ground lights.
The company ensures employee safety by conducting extensive safety training and requiring workers to wear the proper protective equipment.
SeaScape buys its lights in bulk before the season and leases them to the consumers, and then in January and February when it comes back to take down the lights, it stores them in a warehouse.
Wilson says it’s a case by case basis whether they will use a homeowner’s personal lights, but generally it is a recipe for service calls.
“It becomes a situation where we lose control of the integrity of the design,” he said. “We may do a very elaborate tree with their lights and then one half will go out the day before Christmas and they may say not to worry about it, but our name is on that installation and people assume that is something we did wrong.”
When it comes to whether he prefers residential or commercial projects better, Wilson said he likes both.
“They both have their own uniqueness,” he said. “There’s nothing better than taking that average family home and lighting it up and seeing the kids’ eyes when you light it up, there’s just a greatness to it, but on the commercial side, to take an entire plaza or hotel or bank or coffee shop and light it up for the community is a joy.”