Locals annoyed by preemptive holiday advertising, but are still shopping early

While the time for present wrapping and eggnog swilling is more than a month away, some businesses in South Carroll are populating their stories with holiday memorabilia early. Too early, some locals feel.
"Commercialism has taken so much out of the holidays," said Sue Moore, owner of Revive & Company on Sykesville Main Street. "My business partner and I love the holiday itself. But the meaning behind it gets a little lost when you're shopping for Halloween costumes and Christmas trees are up."
Moore said she will not be selling Christmas items, which for her include ornaments and other home decor, until the Friday after Thanksgiving, and while she does anticipate more visits to the shop around the holidays, she's not sure if she'll see a spike in income, and that's OK with her.
The holiday season - with the subsequent sales and decorations - always used to appear on Black Friday, said Thomas Maronick, a professor in Towson University's department of marketing. But particularly in the past five years, large corporations have been threatened by digital competitors like Amazon, who offer lower prices and have stolen much of the holiday foot traffic, Maronick said.
To maintain that holiday revenue, which can account for 20 to 40 percent of the retailers' annual sales, according to Bethany Aronhalt, spokeswoman with the National Retail Federation, corporate officers often dictate that stores erect Christmas displays and advertisements as early as possible, Maronick said.
Other holidays that occur almost concurrent to Christmas, like Hanukkah, are usually bundled into the corporation's marketing plans, Maronick said.
"It's an attempt to kick up that holiday spirit and get people in the mood for shopping," he said.
Walmart Stores Inc. cross-country began implementing their holiday displays in late September and early October, according to spokeswoman Debbie Serr. Walmart advertises holiday sales through TV, print and radio, with a particular emphasis on TV, Serr wrote in an emailed statement.
Serr would not comment on why Walmart began holiday advertising so early, or when the Eldersburg location of Walmart began its Christmas campaign.
"Our stores are now set, ready to meet all the holiday desires of our customers," she wrote in the statement. "We've put a lot of focus on making sure we have a strong holiday season."
Chain stores today function more as showcases, Maronick said. Shoppers will often visit retailers to get a visual on a product, and then purchase it online. Corporations have attempted to remedy this trend by offering price matching and significant holiday sales.
Meg McPherson, of Westminster, said she expects traditionally that holiday sales appear on Black Friday.
"I'm not fond of that," she said, referring to early Christmas decorations. "September is a little early."
Early Christmas decorations don't seem to keep consumers out of the stores. A study by the National Retail Federation revealed 41 percent of Americans begin shopping before Halloween, with 12 percent starting as early as September.
"The sales are what drives people into the stores," Maronick said.
Local businesses don't need to worry about early Christmas set-ups, Maronick said. Their income rarely increases as significantly as the chains' during the holidays, and local businesses don't possess the resources to advertise and capitalize on Christmas commercialism.
Lynn Aaron, owner of The Olde Liberty Shoppe, a local business with branches in Sykesville and Westminster, said she typically begins holiday decorating the stores the second week of November. She will also open the shop early on Black Friday, but not at the crack of dawn.
"There's no need to compete with big stores," she said. "It's a totally different atmosphere."
Diane Atchley, of Sykesville, said she typically starts shopping for gifts around late October, but prefers local mom-and-pop stores to chains.
"They need the business," she said. "And if I get a gift there, it's going to be original."
Aaron said 50 percent of her customers expect to see holiday items early, while the other half doesn't want to see it until at least after Thanksgiving. From a business perspective, the holidays are lucrative - the shops' biggest holiday sellers are Pandora Jewelry, Aaron said, which brings in money, but she also notices that her customers place too much focus on early holiday shopping.
"We're so stressed trying to find the perfect gift - we put that undue stress on ourselves," she said.

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