Step into the Belle Isle Walmart, and Halloween costumes, fall decor and candy are front and center — typical for late September. But walk a little farther, past the stacks of new toys, and in a back corner of the garden center, you'll find it: Christmas.
Holiday trees, lights, yard decorations and a few other items have begun to creep onto the retailers' shelves. And Walmart isn't alone. Christmas items have been spotted at Lowe's, Sam's Club, T.J. Maxx, Kohl's and other stores.
It may seem early — Oklahomans have not yet transitioned from flip flops to boots — but retailers are facing an extra short period between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year (26 days, four weekends) and they depend on holiday sales, which can make up 20 to 40 percent of annual sales.
Retailers like Kmart and Walmart have a good reason to stock the shelves early: they offer layaway and customers who use the service are already shopping for the holidays.
Commercials are coming
Almost half of retailers (49 percent) say they will launch holiday campaigns before Halloween this year, according to Experian Marketing Services, which surveyed marketers about their holiday campaign strategies.
“This year's back-to-school season started in early July as a big promotional month,” said Bill Tancer, general manager of global research for Experian Marketing Services. “Our consumer confidence data shows it as the highest it's been since the recession, so we expect the early promotion trend to carry over into the holiday season, with Black Friday deals being offered even earlier than last year.”
Already, Target is promoting “September Cyber Monday” with deals on its website this Monday — nine weeks before the traditional Cyber Monday. And Kmart was criticized by shoppers on Facebook after it started running a holiday commercial earlier this month.
But not everyone is groaning about the early start.
Shopper Jim Spencer, who spotted holiday merchandise at Lowe's last week, said it doesn't bother him a bit.
“The Christmas items are pretty to look at,” he said.
By the numbers
Halloween spending is to reach $6.9 billion. U.S. consumers are expected to spend an average of $75 on Halloween items this year, down from $79.82 last year, according to the National Retail Federation. More than 43 percent of those surveyed say they'll dress up, spending a total of $2.6 billion on costumes. Additionally, celebrants will spend an estimated $2 billion on candy and $1.96 billion on decorations. Nearly one-third of people begin shopping before the end of September.