As the weather cools and the landscape takes on the red hues of fall, Halloween costumes are hung in the farthest reaches of closets and the price of candy corn has dropped dramatically. Overnight, holiday decor seems to have taken center stage in nearly every store and Christmas bazaars have opened their doors to usher in the spirit of the season.
Some are thrilled to see the holiday shopping season begin; others think the commercialization of religious and family-centered occasions has gotten out of control.
As visitors to TownMall of Westminster peruse the holiday decor in the windows of stores like Jill's Jams, Mixes and More, some will exclaim how much they love Christmas. Jill's store employees Angie Orovich and Kristen Haegerich said others complain that it's too soon, that this notion of stocking a store's shelves with decorations in late October and early November contributes to the holiday's commercialization.
Jill's begins to break out its holiday accouterments at the end of October with Nov. 1 serving as the unofficial date to further stock these items, said Haegerich.
"Fall has already stopped selling," she said on the day before Halloween.
For some retailers, the holiday season is crucial to yearly revenue. This time of year can represent 20 to 40 percent of annual sales. Last year, sales in November and December comprised almost 20 percent of total sales in the retail industry, according to the National Retail Federation. The figure doesn't include October sales.
There are incentives to starting early. NRF data shows about 40 percent of consumers begin their holiday shopping before Halloween, suggesting the stores are only giving consumers what they want.
The Mustard Seed, a Christian-based retailer located in TownMall, began putting out its plethora of Christmas music, ornaments, books and more at the beginning of October, according to store employee Audrey Boyle.
"Right away people are buying," she said.
For some, such as Orovich, the decision to buy early is methodical - it's financially easier to space out the gifts.
Rose and Rick Blizzard visited the first day of the Christmas Market at the Carroll County Agriculture Center Farmers Market Saturday. They bought some jelly but decided to wait a few weeks to begin their holiday shopping.
"It has to be a little cooler to get into the feel of things," said Rose Blizzard.
However, they said they were glad to see all the Christmas crafts out because it gave them lots of ideas to look into later.
Some people complain that the holiday shopping season seems to come earlier every year. The Blizzards and fellow shopper Karen Riegel agreed that it did seem a little early for holiday shopping. However, according to vendors, the start of the season hasn't changed in decades.
At St. John's United Methodist Church in Hampstead, Kim Shelby, of Westminster, was selling festively painted and lighted gourds and ornaments for the church's annual Christmas Bazaar Saturday. She said people might think Christmas shopping has started earlier this year, but it has been the same for 25 years, the entire time she has been crafting.
"It's always the first Saturday in November," she said.
It might seem earlier because the first day of the month was Friday, she said, and also because November has five Saturdays this year.
Judy Kelly, who helped organize the bazaar, said creating opportunities for Christmas shopping in early November had nothing to do with commercialization of the season. The event at St. John's raises funds for the Women in Missions, which also provides services for the needy during the holiday season.
"We have to get ahead because we have families to support at Christmastime," said Kelly.
She said the vendors are available for those who want to shop, but the majority of the money the church raises from the event comes from the food and baked goods being sold.
"It's about fellowship," said Kelly about the bazaar, "and getting into the spirit of Christmas."