- Lance Allen is the decorative holiday merchant at Home Depot.
- He oversees all holiday decorations for Home Depot, including some of the company’s most viral products.
- This is what his job is like, as told to Insider’s Heather Schlitz.
This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Lance Allen, the decorative holiday merchant at Home Depot. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I absolutely love Halloween. I loved fall growing up – the haunted houses, the hayrides, the movies. Now I’m responsible for overseeing the design of products, buying of materials, getting inventory to stores, marketing, and creating how displays look for Home Depot’s holiday decorations, including this year’s Halloween decorations.
I swear, I have the best job. What’s more fun than giant skeletons and animated characters? I love the creativity and brainstorming to come up with the items that will create excitement.
I sneak into stores to watch parents bring their children to walk through sets, because it’s priceless to see the excitement on their faces when Halloween and Christmas decorations are set up in stores for the first time.
I’ve got a 7-year-old son who loves looking at the Halloween decor. When I show him images of designs, and he’ll tell me they don’t “look scary enough” or that I “have to change the eyes to make them scarier.” We’re working from home. so he gets a lot of sneak peeks.
The fact that we wanted something 12 feet (3.66m) high was scaring everybody
For the 12-foot (3.66m) skeleton, we were walking around a trade show trying to pick out our favorite items. We saw an oversized torso, and it was a really unique item drawing everyone back. It was really expensive. Our team kept coming back to it, and we knew that we wanted to create a whole skeleton that’s oversized, but price it so that customers could afford it.
The fact that we wanted something 12 feet (3.66m) high was scaring everybody. Everyone kept trying to talk us down and push for something 10 feet (3.05m) or shorter, but we wanted it to be so large that it would be the height of two grown men standing on top of each other. We didn’t see anyone else in the market selling something of this size.
The skeleton required a lot of engineering work. One of the worst parts was trying to get it into a small enough box so people could handle it. The biggest worry was making sure it could fit into a standard pallet.
I love seeing how creative people get with the 12-foot (3.66m) skeleton. You know it’s a fun product when everyone’s playing around with it. Someone took the skeleton on the beach, someone was driving home the giant skeleton on this little Mini Cooper, and I saw another picture of the skeleton set up on a fire escape in Chelsea.
You never know where inspiration will come from
I took my family on vacation in Maine, and I had them walk through a few cemeteries with me looking for the best gravestones so we could create those items in design. Our tombstones were amazing this year, and they really replicate what you’d see in a cemetery, so people can create their own replicas at home.
I also go to haunted houses for inspiration, and I sometimes go to multiple haunted houses each weekend. I’ve walked so many haunted houses that it’s hard to scare me anymore, but we always bring someone who we know will get scared because then we know if an item will click with customers.
I love taking stuff out of classic movies that people never get tired of. For Halloween, we watch “Hocus Pocus” and classic slasher things like “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th.” I’ve watched them at least six times each.
The neighborhood looks forward to us putting decorations up each year
I’ve got the normal 12-foot (3.66m) skeleton and the pumpkin-head skeleton at my house. I have a whole hillside covered with lighted jack-o’-lanterns, which look great at night, and I’ve got giant inflatable ghosts and a graveyard. Bigger is better with the decoration scene at my house.
This time of year, I’ve got lots of development work and reviewing changes to a product for next year, photos from factories, and engineering specs. I’m also working through marketing and calls with companies we use to manufacture our products. There’s also financial reporting about how products are performing, and we use those numbers to make decisions for next year.
We’re almost done with all our holiday decorations for 2022, but I keep that under close wraps. My least favorite part of the job is holding back and not being able to tell everyone what’s coming.
I’d love to tell you, but we keep it secret to make it exciting. But nobody will be disappointed in 2022 – I promise you that.