Christmas in Summer
There are fewer than five months until Santa Claus comes to town — and companies including Hobby Lobby, Hallmark and even the U.S. Postal Service have spent years, even decades, fine-tuning the process of getting holiday merchandise ready for sale. Labor Day seems to be the unofficial start date many retailers mark on their calendars to sell items for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Some shoppers may not like the idea of "holiday creep, " where holiday items seem to be available earlier each year in stores. But about 40 percent of consumers surveyed by the National Retail Federation say they begin their winter holiday shopping before Halloween — a number that has remained steady for more than a decade.
Stocking Christmas goodies when the weather outside's delightful can be an uncomfortable, even taboo, topic for retailers. In fact, some prefer not to talk about it — Walgreens, Kohl's and Toys R Us chose not to comment. Yet, with more than $626 billion in holiday retail sales in 2015, according to the retail federation, stores find themselves planning early to meet customers' demand.
Some have shared when they plan to begin selling holiday items in their stores and explained their reasons for getting a head start on the season:
Since 1993, Hallmark Gold Crown has sold Christmas ornaments in its stores in July. While its full line of these keepsakes isn't released until the fall, the retailer knows some customers want first dibs on these limited items. For instance, sports fans might want to scoop up a Dick Butkus ornament, new this year.
"Hallmark's business is holidays, " spokeswoman Kristi Ernsting wrote in an email. "Our consumers know and expect to find holiday products … early so that they can plan ahead for their holiday celebrating and decorating."Dick Butkus ornament, which has been available since July. (Courtesy of Hallmark and NFL Properties LLC)
The U.S. Postal Service makes an early appeal to holiday greeting card senders and stamp collectors everywhere by announcing the designs for some of its 2016 holiday stamps — this year it's Holiday Windows, which feature a candle, wreath, star and lighted tree — in late July and offering them for sale starting Oct. 6.
"Generally, the production, distribution and release of stamps for sale takes about three months, but the creative design and approval process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, " spokesman Joe Brockert wrote in an email. "We try to work years in advance, whenever possible."Holiday Windows stamps, which will become available Oct. 6. (Courtesy of U.S. Postal Service)
Home Depot launches Halloween and Christmas sections on its website, targeted to shoppers who plan their indoor and outdoor decorations months in advance.A look at the store for holiday decorations on the retailer's website. (Courtesy of Home Depot)
AFTER LABOR DAY
Macy's on State Street in downtown Chicago plans to open its holiday store on the sixth floor just after Sept. 5. Home Depot also will begin selling items for the fall and winter holidays.A view of the exterior of the Macy's State Street store in 2015. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune)
Target plans to begin selling its fall products, with winter items to follow in November.
In a 2015 International Council of Shopping Centers survey, shoppers said they plan to do most of their holiday shopping in November and December. Yet October has a growing share of holiday shoppers.
"Families are stretching their paychecks to make sure they can provide everything they need for their kids while catching the best deals, and retailers are certainly reacting to that, " said Ana Serafin Smith, spokeswoman for the retail federation.
Black Friday.Early Black Friday shopper Yeshe Gyatso, who along with friends had been shopping at the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, catches a few moments of sleep, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)
Christmas.Children visit Santa Claus at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg in 2015. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)