Some Christmas lighting tenders commence in November, so interested companies can review the existing lighting display when it appears for the final time prior to submitting their tender in early spring. However, most tenders are put out at the start of the financial year, or when a BID is established.
Every location is different, but here are a few ‘things to remember’ when putting out a Christmas lighting tender:
Allow sufficient time
It can take several months from putting out a tender to making the final decision. Whether done via an official portal or in a more informal manner, there needs to be sufficient time for the lighting supplier to attend a site visit and assess the infrastructure, as well as to develop a suitable design.
The increasing popularity of Halloween as a retail opportunity has helped increase demand for ‘Winter Lighting’ – bringing the season forwards 2-3 weeks to incorporate Halloween. Winter Lights are installed mid-October and remain in place until spring, when the evenings start to get lighter.
Remember: Christmas is the same deadline for everyone, so the earlier you select your lighting supplier, the sooner they can start making your decorations.
Hiring vs buying
Buying a festive lighting scheme outright can be slightly cheaper, especially if you are able to maintain and store the lights yourself. Investing in good lights from a reputable supplier means that your scheme can still look good after the usual 3-5 years hire term. You have a one-off cost in Year 1, and only have the installation and removal costs to consider after that.
Hiring a scheme usually includes maintenance of the lights, storage, environmentally-friendly disposal, out of season insurance and transportation from the supplier’s storage facility to the display site. Hiring provides you with increased flexibility, both in terms of visual display (you can change the lights for a brand new display at the end of the hire term) and financially (good suppliers will offer payment plans to spread costs over the hire term).
Remember: Christmas lights are a depreciating asset which you may prefer not to have on your books.
Top-up or total overhaul
Choosing to ‘top-up’ your lights can be a good option when budget or time is limited. Consider if you would like more lamp column or across street decorations in roads which were previously unlit, to include more of the town in the scheme. Consider whether there are any decorations from your existing scheme which could be incorporated into the new display, or if there are significant buildings or landmarks which can be included.
If you require a completely new scheme, does it require a particular look? Some tenders express a preference for a contemporary scheme, others want a more traditional feel. Are there particular colours, or logos to include?
Switch-on and off
Consider whether to have a switch-on event, or a soft switch-on (where you don’t have a ceremony, but lights are switched on, on a set date). Provide an overview of your plans in the tender, so companies are aware of what is expected, and when.
Remember: Liaise with your lighting supplier concerning switch-on dates, as well as the entertainment providers.
Half your budget goes on installation and removal
If your town, city or BID has had Christmas lights in a certain location previously, they should be able to have them again as the necessary anchor points and power supplies are in place. You can always add to the existing infrastructure, but there are cost implications and it usually requires seeking permission from the landowner or the Highways Agency. Once sufficient infrastructure is in place, and with good maintenance, it will last many years.
Detail what you’d like included in the scheme – it’s possible to put lights on lampposts, across streets and on building exteriors, as well as in trees, on bridges or projected on landmarks. If you have the power source to support it, the addition of large floor-standing 3D decoration can be an effective way of drawing attention to a Christmas market, grotto or ice skating rink.
Remember: Installation and removal can take up around 50% of the per annum cost. Ensure you have sufficient budget to cover both the product and the installation costs.
Lights aren’t just for Christmas
Christmas lights need to be switched off on the 12th night and are generally uninstalled early January. However, the increasing popularity of Halloween has increased demand for ‘Winter Lighting’ – bringing the traditional Christmas lights season forwards 2-3 weeks to incorporate Halloween too. Winter Lights can be installed mid-October and remain in place until spring, when the evenings start to get lighter. Consider whether your lights could incorporate other seasonal events or religious festivals.
Investing in a good Christmas lighting display results in improved atmosphere and an uplift in footfall, which is great for businesses, visitors and residents alike. It’s a win-win for you and your community.