A week ago Gwedolyn Bounds of the Wall Street Journal reported on the growth in the market for Christmas home decorating: "Instant Christmas Spirit: Hire the Experts to Trim the Tree" (WSJ, December 14) :
"There have long been pockets of wealthy people happy to outsource the headaches of holiday decorating. But the combined pressures of a time-crunched culture and more geographically separated families where adult kids often can't get home to help elderly parents trim the tree, has created a ripe entrepreneurial niche catering to the general masses. From landscapers who survive the slow season festooning trees and houses with lights, to florists, painters, and even exterminators, a growing number of small business owners are earning fees ranging from a few hundred dollars to $30,000 and up to deck homeowners' halls inside and out...
Helping fuel the trend, of course, is a growing acceptance that it's OK to pay someone to do tasks that once seemed intensely personal, such as wrapping gifts or addressing holiday cards. While some people have physical disabilities or personal situations that mean they require aid, others choose pros for the convenience...
The urge to decorate bigger and better each year is one natural extension of hiring a pro..."
One decorator noted:
"The family is more separated today. One kid is doing e-mail, another kid is on a videogame, the dad is reading the paper and mom is doing something else."
The implication is that they don't have time for joint work on a decorating project.
This is a great opportunity for many small businesses. It provides filler work for landscapers and others during a slow period:
"Ms. Schuster says she and her husband used to plow snow to keep their Terra-Firma Landscape business going during the winter months. "But it's a very unpredictable business and hard on a life-style," she notes. Christmas, however, "comes every year on the same day."...
This business has a very short season (starts after Thanksgiving and peaks on the two weekends before Christmas). At least one firm, Christmas Decor, operates nationally, with 268 franchises. Sales were $350,000 in 1996, but should be $55 to $65 million this year - about three-quarters from residential business.
The demand is shifting out as the opportunity cost of time on alternative activities, and incomes, increase. To the extent that work once done within the family is not shifted to the market, apparent GDP goes up, despite the fact that no actual national output hasn't.