Look around. There are wreaths and Christmas trees, mistletoe and fake snow - all sorts of sights to remind us that the holidays are here.
Decorations have not been the only thing signaling the holidays. Christmas songs by artists from Bing Crosby and Sammy Davis Jr. to Destiny's Child and Jessica Simpson have accompanied shoppers since before Black Friday. The sounds of the season vary from place to place.
Visit Bath & Body Works and you might find yourself shopping to the tune of contemporary R&B singer Ashanti's finger-snapping remake of Hey Santa or Donnie Hathaway's 1971 classic This Christmas. Head to Victoria's Secret and hear Otis Redding's Merry Christmas, Baby, or The Smashing Pumpkins' Christmas.
Go to Borders and hear a variety that includes Harry Connick Jr., Chaka Khan, Dave Koz, Toni Braxton and local bands The Hellblinki Sextet, The Cubists and Livingroom Legends.
"We play a mix of both traditional and new, and local stuff, too. I think it keeps people in the holiday mood," said Karin Johnson, a training supervisor at Borders, where Augusta's 12 Bands of Christmas CD is one of the holiday music compilations played. "We try to play the newer stuff to help sell the new CDs coming out, but it's always nice to hear the classics, too."
Ms. Johnson said that Borders gets customers of a variety of ages but that that's not what determines the play list.
"It's just good to keep a mix of stuff that people are familiar with," she said.
For Chaz Akins, the general manager of the American Cafe in Augusta Mall, clientele demographic is a factor. Because the restaurant is switching music companies, the seasonal sounds - which typically start the day after Thanksgiving - haven't begun yet but should start within the coming week, he said. The corporate offices decide what will be played.
Mr. Akins, who said the majority of customers are ages 25 to 50, expects this year's music to be more of the older, familiar tunes, as it has been in previous years.
"It will probably be traditional. That goes along with our clientele," Mr. Akins said, adding that he feels the music played makes a difference. "It makes our guests feel more comfortable. We don't want guests hearing something they're not comfortable with."
At Footaction, not only can you hear holiday tunes but you also can see music videos played on a series of TV screens on two walls. Store Manager Andre Coleman said that although the majority of the holiday music - which is sent from the corporate offices - is upbeat and faily new school, traditional songs also will play.
"We get (shoppers) in the mood for the holiday season. We don't do Silent Night or Jingle Bells, but we do do Run-DMC, Destiny's Child's latest and things like that," he said pointing to the screens as Aaron Neville's Please Come Home for Christmas appeared. The videos are a bonus, Mr. Coleman said, because they lure in many passers-by who haven't seen videos for some Christmas songs they like.
Rather than inundate the customer with Christmas music, Footaction's holiday music is a mix of contemporary hip-hop, R&B and even gospel.
"The whole (video collection) is not based on Christmas because some people don't celebrate Christmas, so it's versatile," Mr. Coleman said.
At some stores, though, such as Wine World in North Augusta, customers can shop holiday-music free.
"You may not hear Christmas music at all when you come here, unless we put on a holiday CD. We have a couple," sales associate Melissa Moreno said recently as an NPR talk show played on the store's boom box. Having seen customers sing along to the easy-listening music, she believes they like that, she said, and she doesn't feel pressured to play seasonal tunes. In fact, she's more concerned about the music resulting in an adverse reaction from patrons.
"I think we hear so much of it elsewhere. I think about how it would affect them negatively while they shop because I know I don't always feel in the mood for it. Sometimes you just don't want to hear it," Mrs. Moreno said. "I'd be careful of what kind I play if I did play some. It'd have to be something soothing; not nerve-racking."
How do customers feel about what they hear as they shop? Although some choose to sing along and others try to tune it out, some, such as Carolyn Gibson, of Hephzibah, are indifferent to whether the music is traditional, contemporary or anything in between.
"It doesn't matter; it doesn't affect my shopping. I hadn't really noticed," said Mrs. Gibson, 37.
She then paused to take a moment to listen to as she shopped at Bath & Body Works.
"I guess I will say it puts you in the Christmas spirit, but it wouldn't make me spend any more money."
Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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