Christmas already? Retailers hope to recover from poor summer sales

Scary masks and fall foliage have been gradually crowding out the swim goggles and garden fencing at my local dollar store. When I first noticed the August trend toward ghouls and gourds, I complained to dollar store staff, "it's too early for this stuff!" A couple of weeks before Halloween, Christmas stock will start making an appearance but, according to an article in the Toronto Star newspaper, Christmas has already arrived at some stores.

According to the article, desperate retailers are hoping to recover from the poor sales of the first part of the year, so at Costco, for instance, Christmas trees are parked beside the barbecues left over from an unseasonably cool Ontario summer, and the Sears Christmas catalog has long-since been delivered, although the store won't be carrying holiday merchandise until October, as usual.

In the U.S., however, Sears, K-Mart and Toys R Us held Christmas Sales in July, inviting consumers to "beat the holiday rush." In the U.K., Selfridges, Harrods and Fortnum & Mason have also begun stocking holiday merchandise.

The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression has forced thousands of retailers out of business this year and those remaining need to make up shortfalls from last year's abysmal Christmas and poor sales for most of 2009. The holidays can generate as much as 40% or more of total annual sales and store owners believe that there will be a pent-up demand for goods, according to Toronto retail consultant Lynn Bevan.

Stores are hoping that people will spend more if they start buying earlier. Some people are just plain annoyed by the early arrival of Christmas trappings in stores. Others may need to start Christmas shopping earlier than November, in order to spread out their purchases this year. A small percentage of folks like to start Christmas shopping early anyway, but do we really want to see red and green garlands while shopping end-of-summer-sales? What do you think?

Marlene Alexander is a freelance writer and dollar store diva. She writes tips and ideas for home decorating using only items from the dollar store.

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