More homeowners look to pros for holiday lights

Working for a company that installs holiday decorations, Jeremy Devries attaches Christmas lights to a home in Lenexa. Companies installing holiday lighting have seen an increase in business in recent years.

? A new federal study estimates that nearly 17,500 people went to emergency rooms over the last three years after hurting themselves while putting up holiday decorations.

Sharon Heimes doesn’t want to be one of those people. So, like a growing number of homeowners around the country, she recently hired a professional crew to string lights on her two-story house in the Kansas City suburb of Lenexa.

Heimes can’t use a ladder, and her husband is afraid of heights, but they didn’t want to forgo the adornments.

“It shows the spirit of the season,” Heimes said as she watched two workers from Diamond K Exterior Design staple bulbs into the roof line. “It’s a little costly, but it’s worth it for the convenience.”

In a study released Dec. 9, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said most of the 17,465 decoration-related injuries in the past three years were caused by falls from ladders, followed by roofs, furniture, stairs and porches. Of those injuries, 12 percent required a hospital stay. The study did not track fatalities.

Reflecting either proportionality or grace, the study added that males were 40 percent more likely to be among the injured than females.

Companies that install holiday lights for homeowners said safety was a key reason they’ve seen steady growth in their business.

“People want good results, but for a number of reasons they can’t do it,” said Brandon Stephens, director of marketing for Lubbock, Texas-based Christmas Decor, a national decorating chain with 375 locations. “It’s physically technical. It’s more complicated than it looks to do it right.”

Stephens said his company, which began franchising in 1996, now installs light for 32,000 customers.

“It’s been huge growth,” Stephens said. “Holiday lighting is contagious. When one person does it on the block, it sets into motion this desire that everyone wants to do it.”

Travis Freeman, owner and president of Omaha, Neb.-based Brite Ideas Decorating, another franchising outfit, said this season he’s seen a 40 percent increase in sales of lights, luminaries and other decorating supplies used by his company’s network of 142 local franchises.

“I don’t know why it is,” Freeman said. “I don’t know if they feel more comfortable with the war situation. It’s a lot of expendable income-type of purchases.”

Diamond K’s Melody Kleeman, whose husband, Mark, started doing holiday lighting eight years ago to supplement his alarm system business, said many customers say having a company do their lights means one fewer entry on their holiday to-do lists.

Most professional lighting companies are side businesses for landscapers, house painters and others who would normally be sitting unemployed during the winter months.

Jim Keller, owner of Keller’s Flowerhaus and Landscaping of Kansas City, said he got into holiday lighting six years ago after some of his regular landscaping customers asked if he could do their holiday lights. Soon, their friends and neighbors asked him to do their houses and, in a business plan come full circle, switched to his landscaping company come spring.

“It’s a great business,” Keller said, estimating his crews do 40 to 50 homes in a season as well as some commercial work.

“We’ll do about anything,” he said. “We do luminaries along the drive. We’ll do double to triple lines along gutter lines. Sometimes we have people who want sleighs on the rooftop — we don’t do a lot of that.”

Professional lighting is not cheap. Keller said he’s done jobs worth $5,000, but most range between $1,000 and $1,500. Kleeman said her company’s jobs were rarely more than $500.