‘Twas weeks before Halloween, and all through the town,
people expected pirates and goblins and princesses in gowns.
But what to their wondering senses should appear?
Christmas garlands and lights and music, oh dear …
Well, it might have been weeks before Halloween for most people, but at Walmart and a host of other area stores, it was already officially the Christmas shopping season, as that poor parody of Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem above described.
Just a week after Halloween and a full three weeks before Thanksgiving, Santa Claus arrived at the Wyoming Valley Mall to “Ho, ho, ho!” amid all manner of Christmas decorations.
And for the second year, retail announcements blared, Black Friday sales actually will start on Thanksgiving Day.
It’s all part of the ever-creeping Christmas shopping season, which not only has extended to pre-Thanksgiving November but now to early October.
“Originally going back 10 or 15 years ago, Black Friday kicked off the holiday season; it was pretty rare to even see Christmas decorations prior to the holiday season,” said Anthony Liuzzo, director of Wilkes University’s Arizona business programs and a specialist in public-policy issues and holiday retail sales forecasting. “Retail has gotten much more competitive. They are each trying to outdo each other picking up a bigger piece of the pie.”
Retailers may see a need for it, but most people don’t like it, according to surveys.
“It is getting to where they’re stretching it out a little too much,” said Jeff McHugh, 55, of Hanover Township, one of several people interviewed in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
“I think it is becoming too commercialized,” offered Lisa Smith, 48, of Meshoppen.
“Give the turkey back its holiday,” said Mary Sands of Tunkhannock, a 26-year-old Luzerne County Community College student. “It’s too early for Christmas decorations.”
But fellow student Bethann Concert of Plains Township countered, “It’s never too early!”
The 36-year-old said her grandmother did her Christmas shopping in January, almost a year before the holiday.
Liuzzo said Halloween is a pretty good retail day in and of itself, but retailers advertised on two fronts — Halloween and Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa — this year.
Data still show, however, that consumers do most of their shopping from early to mid-December, he said, while scouting out in November what they might want to buy the next month.
“Thirty percent of all sales are done the week before Christmas,” he said. “The biggest shopping day of the year is the Saturday before Christmas.”
But the early advertising gets the stores in the shoppers’ minds, Liuzzo said.
“Macy’s wants to show people they’re around; Sears wants to show them, JCPenney wants to show them. But actually sales are still done in December.”
Still, a new survey backs up what many local folks are saying.
SOASTA, a California-based private technology company that provides cloud and mobile testing, released survey results on Nov. 5 that showed even more Americans think stores should not put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.
Of the 2,038 Americans 18 and older surveyed online by Harris Interactive on behalf of SOASTA, 77 percent thought stores should not put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving — up from 76 percent last year. Also, 81 percent thought stores should not play Christmas music before Thanksgiving. That was an increase from 78 percent in last year’s survey.
“It conveys an image of greed on the part of retailers, but major retailers are afraid not to do it,” he said. “It’s tough not to join the crowd. I know this is the first year Macy’s has decided to open for Thanksgiving.”
He said Thanksgiving weekend amounts to only 10 percent of sales.
“People who go out on Black Friday are really out there for the cultural phenomena,” Liuzzo said.