Countdown To Stress-free Holiday Shopping: Beware the Christmas Creepies!

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Just so you know, it's official - 60 SHOPPING DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS! - there are exactly 9 weekends left before one of the biggest gift-giving days celebrated on the entire planet.

Hey...don't curse the messenger...I'm just sayin' - and you thought Halloween was the scariest time of the year - better watch out for the Christmas Creep!

Heck, Halloween is just around the corner and I am so NOT ready!

I'm glad it's not just me, either.

Laurie is also reflecting on a last-minute Halloween shopping trip, one blank day this week, that was nearly foiled by the Chiristmas Creep:

One major retailer had already compressed the Halloween stuff into one aisle to make room for wrapping paper and ornaments. The twenty families searching through the costume racks weren't feeling especially Christmasy. Argh....couldn't the store have delayed the Christmas creep by one more day?

What is it?

The trend began about three years ago, but more retailers are joining in, said Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, a consumer behavior marketing firm in Charleston, S.C.

It's a phenomenon called "Christmas creep," according to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Hoping to catch early shoppers, retailers are extending their all-important holiday shopping season, which accounts for 25 percent to 40 percent of the year's sales.

[source]

So, what retailers are saying is that - by getting a jump on early sales and what people are buying - they can stock up and market items as "hot" and/or "must have" products.

Are you buying this stuff?

Teresa Ciulla posts in Entrepeneur Daily a recent survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) confirms that 40 percent of consumers start shopping before Halloween and also feels a bit bugged by the rush:

Year-round shopping? If I start seeing Easter Bunnies and American flags for sale in January, I just may sceam. But if you're a smart retailer, you'll have your holiday goods out long before I think you should.

In her Shopaholic Diaries, Cherie confesses about her dismay over commercialism - as October is the new December - and how she just wants it all to stop, at least until AFTER Thanksgiving:

One of my biggest pet peeves is the stores all bringing out the holiday decorations before Thanksgiving...and now it's even before Halloween. I don't really mind them doing it before Halloween that much because it's also a commercialized holiday, but it just kills me that they do it before Thanksgiving and just skims over that holiday.

Teresa and Cherie make a really interesting point here, I think, and - although, I believe Thanksgiving is anything but "simple" in my house - having left stores frazzled and empty-handed on numerous occasions, the rush in seasonal displays does make me wonder whether or not bloggers feel it's worth all the creepy effort -- are consumers growing tired of commercialism?

Stephanie blogs - Stop the Ride (called consumer debt) - about how she believes it's easy to get caught up on the commercialism, especially if you have kids, and abides by a simple strategy for parents to approach Christmas called, "The Gift of Four":

It is a simple approach that has worked well for us. Only buy your kids four gifts. Buy them something:

1. they want
2. they need
3. that is practical
4. to help them grow spiritually.

Stephanie's approach resonated with me - she also has four kids to buy for at Christmas - and I really think that her idea is one that would work very well for my family and goes onto outline the exact reasons why:

...this plan helps to limit the commercialism and greediness for stuff that comes with the holidays. The fun and excitement are still there without the overload that comes from excess. The kids value and treasure the four gifts that they get. They don't get lost in a pile of stuff.

Most holiday and event planning experts also agree that having a plan - especially, one that works for you - and making (as well as sticking to) lists helps shoppers maintain a budget and steer clear of stress.

Avoiding the Christmas Creep, not so much.

e.Premium.net - a home-based and online business blog - suggests there are signs that the Christmas Creep really does exist:

Every year I start to see the same signs around the end of September/beginning of October and this year is no different:

• My wholesale search engines start to serve noticeably more search results each day.

• My wholesale directory sites start to attract more visitors and members.

• I start getting more and more emails with wholesale-related questions.

• General online activity increases as buyers start to think about purchasing Christmas presents and sellers start to offer suitable purchase options.

On the other hand, the article continues to point out the reasons why it would behoove your business to consider sticking with the current calendar month and avoiding the buzz:

And if you are keen to get started right away, forget about Christmas for a bit and concentrate on Halloween! Fancy dress is getting bigger and bigger in the UK and we have access to a huge fancy dress costume supplier with superb costumes from just a few pounds each! Last year I needed a fancy dress costume for Halloween and left it until the last minute to order and ended up really struggling to find something suitable as everywhere had sold out. No doubt demand will be just as great this year so why not take advantage of it?

Doing some last-minute Halloween shopping today - and seriously considering trying to convince my five-year-old not all witches wore hats, a dress, striped stockings or carried broomsticks...just look at Mommy! - I was pleasantly surprised to find that my local K-mart had tons (read: more than one aisle) of Halloween stuff left. I was also able to pick up treats for the classroom parties and snack for Saturday's soccer game.

At a 40% discount - BOOYAH! - goes to show you can get by on the fly, at least some of the time.

Now, I'm done!

This year, however - with my husband working longer hours, the kids schedules being what they are and caring for ill parents - I would love to be able to plan my holidays a little better. But, I still can't see myself getting into it - until after Thanksgiving.

Another business taking advantage of invoking the holiday spirit is Red Nose Lighting:

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LOVE Christmas?

But hate decorating?

Let our professionals design and install, service, take down, and store you lighting display!

All of the LOVE, none of the labor!

I found their link over at the AAA Aardvark Marketing Blog - I think their tagline, "the first name in marketing," is pretty freakin' ingenious - with this comment that pretty much matches my sentiment:

Wow. Welcome to America, where you can pay someone to do (almost) anything, including Griswolding your house into a display that will either make your neighbors turn green with jealousy or hate you for the near-daylight level of illumination and the traffic jam you've created with your custom-created winter wonderland (that you saved $50 on with the Clipper Magazine ad).

Some people have too much money.

Exactly!

I'm not against Griswolding your house for Christmas - a ritual my husband likes to do after a long, hard and thankless day at work on Black Friday! - but, for each BlogHer who doesn't have the time (not to mention the money) for such shiny things, there is someone who is blogging one cool holiday idea or another!

Blogs with kick-ass taglines, too!

Busy Mom - "better parenting through coffee," Gawd...but, I've been in love with this woman since the earliest of all my blogging years - posts about her evolution of Christmas shopping and a link to this really cool website:

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Organized Christmas

Our mission: to help you get ready for the holiday season. Whether you plan for the holidays year-round or at the last minute, we'll help you get organized for a stress-free holiday.

Try one of our Christmas organizing plans, browse ideas for gifts and crafts, print free gift tags and planner forms or join in on the message boards.

We're glad you're here!

Today's tip:

Wrap and Mail Center!

Assemble a "wrap and mail center" before you begin buying holiday gifts. Collect gift wrap, ribbons and bows, gift tags, pens, scissors, tape and mailing boxes. Store them together on a closet shelf, or in an underbed storage container. A wrap and mail center makes ite easy to wrap gifts as soon as they are purchased. No more late-night wrap sessions on December 24!

Nope, perhaps there's no avoiding the Christmas Creep, but - by visiting with BlogHers throughout the next couple of months and posting some "stress-free holiday shopping" recommendations - at least we can make 'em look like one of the cool kids!

Are you ready for the holidays - I'll be watching - 'cause now we're talking creepy, yes!?!
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Contributing Editor Elizabeth Thompson also writes for the eZine, "The Imperfect Parent."

[image source: Christmas Mobile Java Games]

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