Feeling the holiday stress? Christmas is only X days away! Any gifts bought? Packages shipped? Decorations up?
No? Well, maybe you should give yourself the gift – or ask someone else to give you the gift – of a personal concierge for a few hours or a day. Or hire some fit young people to get up on your roof and install the lights. Heck, why not outsource the entire holiday, from initial planning through final cleanup? It’s all possible.
Janet Sadowski is the CEO of TimeSquared Personal Concierge Service. She says Christmas is the busiest time of the year for her and her team, partly because gift baskets are always a big part of their business, and partly because of Christmas stress. “Our clients are usually panicked and we’re doing everything we can to keep them at ease and get everything done that they need done,” she says.
That begins with a checklist: What are the kids getting? What needs to be shipped, when? Are you decorating your house? Do you have teacher gifts? A turkey?
Sadowski takes care of basics like gift wrapping, grocery shopping and party prep, but that they’ll go much further: coordinating decor, catering, photography, centrepieces, you name it. “We coordinate handyman services in the home – all those little things that need to get done before company arrives,” she says. “If you have a gala coming up and that prize piece of jewellery or that prize pair of shoes needs work, we take those in and get them done.”
One new and burgeoning business angle is prepping vacation rental properties for extended family, ensuring they’re set up with basic groceries and a few decorations.
One of the more unusual things that Sadowski gets asked to do is write letters from Santa to a child explaining why the gift they’re getting is not the gift they asked for, “because the parents waited too long to place the order on Amazon and the wrong colour was available,” she says. “Santa has to explain why the elf put the wrong dye in the lot or whatever.” She says Dr. Seuss is her muse when she takes that task on.
Sadowski doesn’t do full catered meals – she says most people have a favourite caterer, or she points them to someone like Paul Doucette at Sawmill Banquet – and she doesn’t do external decorations. But don’t worry, more and more people are getting into that business, whether it’s lawn professionals looking for a side gig in the winter or whether it’s Steven Knight, whose business, Five Star Holiday Decor, does nothing but outdoor Christmas decorations. “How’s it going at our business? It’s like asking how it’s going at halftime of the Super Bowl,” he says. “It’s crazy busy but that’s the way we like it.”
He says Five Star will install lights for 500 single-family residences in the greater Edmonton area this year, as well as 350 commercial sites like shopping centres, offices and arenas and at events like the Edmonton Valley Zoo’s Zoominescence.
“When it comes to homeowners, we do everything from your 1940s bungalow owned by a husband and wife who can’t climb the ladder anymore to a big acreage out in Strathcona County that spent $50,000 on an animated light display that you can see from kilometres away,” he says. His largest ever contract was $70,000 last year, although he’s quick to point out that his prices include the supply, installation, removal, storage and maintenance of the decorations. “We say if our customers need to do anything more than call us to make Christmas happen, we’ve done something wrong,” Knight says.