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Editor's Letter: 'Tis the Ever-Expanding Season

If you tuned in to WNOU-FM in Indianapolis on October 8, what to your wondering ears did you hear?

Jingle Bells. Or Silent Night. Or White Christmas.

On October 8.

WNOU, 93.1 on the dial, calls it the “93 Days of Christmas,” a play on its call numbers. In part, the ploy is a tactic that buys the station time as it completes a radical transition from rock and hip-hop to all talk. However, it says something that it didn't think twice about launching into Christmas jingles more than three weeks before children had even donned Halloween costumes. (And forget Thanksgiving. That got swallowed up by the gift-giving holidays years ago.)

If you walk into a significant number of malls and stores right now, could you blame WNOU?

National chains, including Wal-Mart and the Home Depot, got things started early, double loading aisles of Halloween apparel and decoration with ornaments, yard displays, lights and other items to celebrate Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa.

Is this really where we want to take things?

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade used to be the unofficial starting gun for the marathon holiday shopping season. After all, the culmination of the parade — in the wake of the floats, Broadway vignettes and high school marching bands — is Santa and Mrs. Claus.

The signal, of course, was the morning after Thanksgiving dinner, where you gorged yourself on turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and other holiday staples, it was time to head to the mall and start shopping. Increasingly, a number of retailers and mall owners have decided customers don't even need a full night to digest their food before they start the spending orgy. More and more are turning to midnight sales to capitalize on the 24 hours in Black Friday. How long will it be before we see sales that start Thanksgiving? Picture it. Free turkey in the food court!

Why stop there? Soon, it seems, perhaps to save time, we should start doling out Christmas candy on Halloween as well.

And, it's not just on the front end of the season.

Historically, the holiday shopping season used to wrap up by New Year's Day, when retailers host an open house for gift returns and exchanges as well as to liquidate leftover merchandise with huge markdowns.

Now things are getting crazy. Part of the blame is credited to the proliferation of gift cards. TowerGroup, a consulting group that tracks the industry, forecasts gift card sales for the 2007 holiday season will increase between 12 percent and 14 percent during 2006, in contrast with the projected 4 percent growth for overall retail sales and a 2.5 percent increase forecast for same-store sales.

The redemption period for gift cards typically stretches three weeks into January. That means retailers don't have to race to sell their previous year's inventory as quickly as possibly after December 25.

It also means yet one more holiday may be in line to be overtaken by the soon-to-be four-month-long holiday shopping season.

That means Martin Luther King Jr. Day — consider yourself warned.

TAGS: News
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