The National Retail Federation says 92 million Americans took advantage of Black Friday sales this season. But there's another group of holiday spenders who aren't watching their pennies quite so closely. Those customers expect the best … and are willing to pay for it. And, of course, there are businesses that cater to these wealthy customers.
Clay Storseth owns a business called "The Christmas Decorator." He decks the halls of private homes, mansions and five-star hotels throughout Los Angeles. Clay counts Michael Jackson among his past clients.
These are discerning, high-end customers.
"Mostly people who just call me and say, 'We'd like to do this and this and this,' and then they don't really ask me how much it costs. And I go do it, and then I bill them -- and they pay me."
For 20 years, Clay's been buying the best trees from Lyra Marble, the owner of "Mr. Greentrees".
"He spends a lot of time here looking through the trees, over and over and over again to find just the right one," says Marble.
Lyra is particular, too. She hand-picks her inventory in Oregon and Washington, keeps them moist twice a day and even humidifies the tent. They're a specialty tree lot and describes it as "the spa for Christmas Trees." And that comes with spa-like prices.
One of her 14-foot noble fir trees can set you back $2,000.
So, what would you pay to have someone decorate your mansion? Depending on what you're doing, Clay says it can cost $3,000 … or way more.
"If you're doing something on a really really big scale and we're doing garlands on every window and putting nine Christmas trees inside your home… Yeah. It would be a lot," Storseth says.
Despite the expense, Clay is booked solid with more than 40 clients this year.
In Brentwood, Calif., Compartes Chocolates, a family shop which has been in business since 1950, say they have almost more customers than they can handle this time of year. They hand-make beautiful chocolate truffles with exotic flavors like Wasabi Ginger and Peanut Honey Sea Salt.
Owner and chocolatier, Jonathan Grahm, says that he expects and plans on these three weeks as do-or-die for his business. Being in Brentwood, Grahm describes his customers as "the cream-of-the-crop elite people" – people who can afford to order almost $13,000 of chocolate to complete their holiday gift list.
One customer, he says, "walked in and ordered 80 of the 80 piece boxes – people call it the biggest chocolate box that you've ever seen in your life. It's $160. In the past, I may have sold 10 in a year — and this person came in and ordered 80 of them, so that's ... 6,400 pieces handmade just for one client's order."
The holiday season is everything to these business owners. They're exhausted, but their clients are happy and they're doing pretty well for themselves. For Clay – the Christmas Decorator – these few months of hard work will support him and his partner for the rest of the year.
"I still act and I still do Shakespeare, but I get to do Christmas and it keeps me in theater and my apartment in New York and my house in Los Angeles," he says. "So, I'm lucky."