The Grand Strand’s bah humbuggers and lovers of the holiday season are getting bonuses this year.
Most stores around Myrtle Beach already have Christmas displays lighting up shelves, which will no doubt delight youngsters while giving the Scrooge’s of the strand a reason to start their humbuggery a little early.
If you’ve watched any TV lately, you’ve probably seen the commercials for Christmas shopping.
So far, it’s been ads about layaway options at stores like Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, and Kmart.
Craft stores, too, are already prepared.
Michaels and AC Moore, both on Seaboard Street in Myrtle Beach, already have Christmas decorations out – from ribbons and wreaths, to ornaments and even nutcracker figurines.
It’s certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas only a week after the official start of fall.
Why is the season starting already? ShopperTrak, in part, blames the presidential election saying the late October, early November period is when holiday ads fill the airwaves. With the Nov. 6 election, however, the analysts at ShopperTrak, predict pesky things like campaign ads will steal the retail thunder.
That combined with the uncertainty of the job market still looming drove stores to push holiday sales a little early this year.
On Wednesday at the Target on Seaboard Street in Myrtle Beach, there were only Christmas lights on display, with a focus on LED lights which have pretty much taken over the market, but product is rolling out there too and should be on the shelves in the next week.
It’s all in the back corner, next to the pumpkins and mounds of candy stocked for Halloween, still a month away.
Tiffany Henderson wasn’t surprised to see Christmas in September, and she doesn’t mind.
“It’s always out this time of year,” she said. “I love it.”
Estimates from ShopperTrak, which literally tracks and analyzes shopping trends, predicts a 3.3 percent gain in retail sales during November and December this year compared to 2011.
Holiday sales, according to ShopperTrack have historically made about 20 percent of annual retail activity.
Like the Target in Myrtle Beach, Wal-Mart in Carolina Forest won’t be putting up the majority of it’s Christmas items until next week, likely Oct. 1, said Lacey Bingle, a Wal-Mart store manager. She said that’s about two weeks earlier than last year.
But, all Wal-Marts have started their layaway program. This year, it’s a little different and an entire month early.
There’s a $5 fee to start a layaway purchase, Bingle said. That’s lower than before and this year, customers can get that fee money back.
“When they come in, they pay a fee initially, but they get that back on a gift card if they pick it up by the due date,” she said.
That due date is Dec. 14.
Bingle said customers who want to take advantage of the layaway program at Wal-Mart must put down 10 percent of the purchase or $10, whichever is greater. Then the store holds on to the product until a pickup date closer to Christmas. The total purchase must also be greater than $50.
At K-Mart, there’s no fee for layaway through Nov. 17.
Toys R Us, too, has changed it’s layaway policy eliminating the upfront service fee for orders created in store through Oct. 31. After Oct. 31, there will be a $5 fee.
All of the layaway plans started in middle or early September. Target does not offer layaway.
The only thing that seems to be missing from displays are live Christmas trees, not yet harvested.
Those who think it’s too early for Christmas are in luck too. Typically there are four weekends between Black Friday and Christmas, but this year there are five. So, if you’re waiting until the last bites of turkey and stuffing are finished, don’t fret. There’s plenty of time for everyone.
The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.
Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381.