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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 9, 2006

Christmas sales already? Yep

By Bruce Horovitz
USA Today

Even as Labor Day burgers sizzled on the grill earlier this week, the Christmas push was already under way for some major retailers. Among them:

  • Costco. The discounter has 45 holiday-pegged toys on display and has holiday decorations, lighting and gift-wrap packs for sale at nearly all of its 358 stores, says Richard Galanti, chief financial officer.

    "We don't want to be stuck with things the week before Christmas," he says, "so we bring them in early and get them out early."

  • T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. The two chains, owned by TJX Cos., began selling everything from Christmas stockings to holiday figurines the third week of August, spokeswoman Laura McDowell says.

    "It sells," McDowell says. "It has every year. But it seems to be a hot topic this year for some reason."

  • Wal-Mart. Since early this month, the retail giant has been selling Christmas decorations and holiday-specific toys in most of its 3,231 domestic stores, says Jolanda Stewart, a spokeswoman. Today, Wal-Mart store managers nationwide gather in Houston to polish holiday plans.

  • J.C. Penney. While the department store chain has no holiday-specific merchandise on the floor, last week it began distributing 8 million copies of its "Christmas 2006 Big Gift Book." About 5 million will be mailed and 3 million more handed out at stores.

    The book is much thinner this year down to 336 pages from 4 40 in 2005. "We took a hard look and focused on items we knew would be attractive," says Tim Lyons, spokesman.

  • Toys R Us. Before September ends, the toy giant will issue its annual "Hot Toys" list for the holidays, spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh says. But in the stores, the upcoming holiday being promoted is Halloween. Still, the holiday toy inventory is already coming in, Waugh says. "Any customer who wants to get the shopping done early can."

    Perhaps the early holiday hype is not so crazy for retailers that want their share of consumers' holiday spending about $435 billion last year.

    More than 21 percent of shoppers do some Christmas shopping before the end of September, says a National Retail Federation survey. And though the NRF has not released its official holiday spending projection yet, it says last year's 6.1 percent spending growth is not likely to be matched this year. Both facts could help explain the recent rush to put out some holiday merchandise.

    Still, not everyone thinks Christmas in September is a swell idea. "It creates a disconnect with the consumer," says retailing expert Marshal Cohen, chief analyst at NPD Group. "The consumer wants to buy now and wear now, but the retailer wants to sell six months in advance."