It already looks like Christmas in stores, on radio

If it seems that Christmas comes earlier every year, that's not just humbug.


Store managers say they broke out the wreaths, lights and other Christmas necessities weeks before Halloween, belying ancient wisdom that holiday shopping begins after Thanksgiving. Christmas songs began playing on radios soon after that.

Not that either one is a bad thing: Shoppers say they could use a little Christmas cheer right now.

"I think it's great. I like Christmas spirit. And Thanksgiving Day spirit," said Augusta resident Deborah Griffin. "It gives the grandkids something to look forward to."

Local shoppers Greg Gantt and Marquita Wells say they have been disappointed, in fact, that there aren't more decorations.

"Of course it matters! Christmas is the most important holiday," Gantt said.

On Nov. 11, radio station WBBQ-FM (104.3) started its yearly parade of holiday music, intentionally coinciding with the Christmas Made in the South arts and crafts festival.

Listener demand drives the choice of date each year, said Kevin Harbison, the operations manager for Clear Channel Communications, which owns the station. Fans flooded the station's e-mail with requests for Christmas music soon after Halloween.

"It's true it's getting earlier. When I grew up, Christmas started the day after Thanksgiving," Harbinson said. "But, now we have a generation of folks that believe the Christmas season begins Nov. 1."

For those who aren't ready for all that Christmas cheer, there are other stations that maintain regular programming. For instance, WEKL-FM (105.7), Clear Channel's classic rock station, won't begin sprinkling in holiday songs until closer to Christmas Day, Harbison said.

Store managers say they also have noticed the steady march toward an earlier holiday season.

Rob LaMaestra, a co-manager of Walmart on Bobby Jones Expressway, said it is because consumer shopping habits have been changing.

"It used to be that customers would buy their outdoor decorations first. Then their Christmas tree, then presents," LaMaestra said. "But this year we've seen Christmas trees in shopping carts two weeks before Halloween."

Pat Adams, a manager at the Martinez Kmart, said she remembers when the store put out Christmas decorations after Thanksgiving.

This year, Kmart had its holiday merchandise on shelves by Sept. 15. It arrived in the same shipment as Kmart's back-to-school products.

"We always say that: Christmas gets earlier every year," Adams said. "I feel it's about getting ahead of the game. If we sell more earlier, it will enhance sales overall."

Augusta resident Mary Stigler said seeing the merchandise out sooner and hearing "elevator music" holiday songs in stores so early makes the Christmas season feel more commercial. She acknowledged, however, that she shops for Christmas year round to catch the sales.

Augusta resident Maya Johnson also thought Christmas seemed to come early this year, but said she started earlier, too. She already has festive pillow shams, curtains, runners and service plates out in her home.

Johnson made her first Christmas purchase of the year in the summer.

"I guess it was just to make sure I would be able to collect everything over time," she said.

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All wrapped up

It's not even Black Friday yet, and a few zealous shoppers already have completed their gift-buying.


Are you planning to join the crowds before sunrise Friday?

Find 60 advertising inserts, plus Black Friday advertisements throughout Thursday's editions of The Augusta Chronicle.

Consumer writer LaTina Emerson will have a special edition of The Pinch to break down some of the best deals in the Black Friday ads.

The Black Friday shopping guide also will have information on store hours and traffic pattern changes.