Too soon to be merry?

Too soon to be merry?

It could be a pitch for the worst horror film of all time.

Frankenstein meets Santa.

But that was the case at most chain retail stores in the days leading up to Halloween. In one aisle, shoppers found creepy and scary Halloween decorations. When they turned the corner to another aisle, the shoppers found themselves in a winter wonderland.

Christmas this year, much like last year, came more than a little early, with some retailers putting out holiday stock roughly two months before the big day.

As she picked through a bin of fall decorations at Michaels craft store at Carlisle Crossing in South Middleton Township, Danielle Haas of Carlisle said the early Christmas offerings won't wear her holiday spirit thin by the time the season actually gets here.

But, she added, it's not easy to embrace Christmas around Halloween.

"It's tough to get in the (Christmas) spirit that early," Haas said.

‘Missing sales'

Some business owners also said they find it hard to embrace Christmas when the leaves are just beginning to change color.

About 15 years ago, said Greg Royer, president and CEO of Royer's Flowers & Gifts, putting out Christmas stock and putting up holiday decorations this early was unheard of.

But over the years, the trend has turned to the sooner the better.

According to a National Retail Federation survey conducted and released in October, 37 percent of Americans said they will begin holiday shopping by Halloween.

Though he's not a fan of starting the Christmas season in early November, Royer said, he has to stock merchandise that shoppers want.

"Frankly, the consumer wants it," Royer said.

In the past, Christmas merchandise went on the shelves at the start of December, the same time decorations at stores went up. But now, Royer's stores, such as the one on York Road in Carlisle, are currently stocked with an equal mix of fall and Christmas merchandise.

Outside the store, giant toy soldiers stand at attention and a sleigh packed with brightly wrapped presents sits on the front lawn.

Royer cited the push by larger chain retail stores as the reason his stores have Christmas wares out presently. It's a matter of keeping pace.

"What we have found is we were... late and missing sales," Royer said.

And there's big money to be lost if shoppers head elsewhere for their holiday gifts.

NRF expects holiday sales to rise 2.3 percent this year to $447.1 billion. For 2010, shoppers are expected to spend, on average, $689. That's up slightly from last year's $682 but down from $694 in 2008 and $755 in 2007.

Too soon

Stephanie Patterson Gilbert is also torn when it comes to the question of when to put Christmas merchandise of the shelves of her North Pitt Street candy and gift shop.

On principle, the owner of Georgie Lou's Retro Candy & Gifts said, she doesn't like bringing out Christmas merchandise too early.

It seems to rush November along too quickly, she said, and nearly skips right over Thanksgiving.

But, Patterson Gilbert added, she could miss out on sales.

"I'm just paranoid if we wait we'll miss out," she said.

Despite having a shelf life of about a year, having Christmas candy out early may turn some shoppers away with thoughts that the food will go bad by the time the holiday rolls around.

Georgie Lou's has a few Christmas items out now, Patterson Gilbert said, but customers are still more interested in fall-oriented sweets. The full line of Christmas candy will be on shelves around Thanksgiving.

However, one question Patterson Gilbert finds herself asking is whether she is missing sales by not putting out Christmas items early. On the other hand, if she puts the items out closer to the holiday, she may be stuck with unsold treats into the new year.

That doesn't mean, however, there's not pressure to get the holiday merchandise out when other businesses do.

"We feel the pressure as a business to put Christmas (merchandise) out (early)," Patterson Gilbert said.

Last year, Patterson Gilbert said, the week before Christmas was her busiest time of the season, so she may not be missing out on too many sales.

Susan and Scott Sheipe, both of Newville, dropped by Georgie Lou's to pick up a few sweets.

Despite Christmas merchandise in some stores and talk of holiday shopping, Susan Sheipe said it's still a little early for the end-of-the-year holiday just yet.

"It's not cold enough yet," she said.


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