What happened to Thanksgiving?

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It’s three days until Thanksgiving. But most major retailers started putting out Christmas merchandise along side candy corn and scary costumes. WOSU takes a look at why retailers feel the need to start the Christmas season so soon.

Santa Claus and his reindeer have been on their way to town since Halloween. This Mickey and Minnie Christmas toy is one of a multitude of green and red sparkly holiday items lining the shelves at the Target on Olentangy River Road.

Mike Esterline is the manager in charge of keeping the shelves full. Esterline admits Thanksgiving is often the forgotten holiday when it comes to retailers. But he said the store decorations don’t seem to bother shoppers.

“I think everybody kind of looks at the dollars and cents associated with making those purchases, and I think that’s more than what they’re not ready for more than anything is what those gifts and everything is going to cost at the end of the season. But, you know, I think once people walk into the store and they kind of see the decorations are up they kind of get into the spirit as well,” Esterline said.

Big box stores aren’t the only ones ramped up for the December holidays. The DPS Antique Mall in Delaware has an old rotating aluminum Christmas tree in its storefront window. The shop’s owner, Carlene Cutler, said they decorated for the holidays on November eighth.

“Actually I’ve had customers say wow, I can’t believe you don’t have any more Christmas stuff out than this. So, you know, even the customers are demanding it sooner. I think people don’t want to rush around at the last minute,” Cutler said.

There were several stores along downtown Delaware’s main drag that were decorated with fall colors. Nectar Candyland was one of them. The confectionery store that’s been around for 61 years had yellow, brown and red leaves dangling from the ceiling. A toy turkey sat in the front window. Pilgrim cut outs were taped to the mirrored walls. But all those Thanksgiving decorations were replaced by November 18th. That’s because all storefronts had to be trimmed for the annual Christmas parade that ran four days before Thanksgiving. Gina Foller is Nectar’s manager.

“I think it’s a little too soon. I think it should be after Thanksgiving. But, you know, everybody has it out so early and people just push for it so we have to put our decorations up, too,” Foller said.

So why the rush for December festivities? The holidays used to go something like this: Halloween, Thanksgiving, then the December celebrations. Mary Brett Whitfield is the senior vice president of Retail Forward. Whitfield said Halloween is partly to blame.

“I think we’ve created a really consumption oriented event around Halloween. Obviously, the December holidays there’s a lot of consumption there, and you know, Thanksgiving for better or worse hasn’t that same kind of – we certainly do a lot of eating and cooking and spending time with family, but there’s not that same consumption component of the Thanksgiving holidays. I think retailers are kind of at a loss to figure out how to maximize that and move right into Christmas,” Whitfield said.

It’s also this time of year when retailers go into the black so-to-speak. And Whitfield said this is another reason why retailers try to get the holiday merchandise out earlier and earlier.

Back at Target on Olentangy River Road Jill Turner peruses the glittering holiday isles. She has a roll of Christmas wrapping paper in her cart. When asked if she thinks it’s too soon to have Christmas trees up in the store for sale already she said yes, but

“On the other hand here I am shopping before Thanksgiving because I have the time. I’m going to see some family over Thanksgiving that I probably won’t see over Christmas. So, I’m trying to just, you know, prepare in advance and that way I don’t have to mail gifts,” Turner said.

But some folks weren’t as passive as Turner.

“It’s kind of irritating,” Matt Hudson said.

Hudson is from North Columbus. He was not browsing for holiday items. In his words he doesn’t like to gloss over other holidays like Thanksgiving.

“If fact, I kind of refuse to start celebrating Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving. Like, I bought a CD of Christmas music a week or two ago, but I haven’t listened to it yet,” Hudson said.

Beth Sidebottom has worked in retail for many years. She said she’s been at Target for the past eight. And when it comes to what customers think about the earlier and earlier Christmas season Sidebottom said the opinions are divided.

“We get it both ways here. Some of the guests that come in are upset if you don’t have it out with the Halloween stuff. And other ones are like oh no it’s way too soon. But, you know, they shop it anyway,” Sidebottom said.

Some may think a retail worker’s holiday spirit would diminish by the second week of December after seeing red and green for six weeks. But Sidebottom said for her the earlier the better.

“Bring it on. I like it,” she said.

And Sidebottom wasn’t the only one getting into the holiday spirit. WOSU student reporter Lauren Polinsky and I stumbled across a kiosk of holiday CDs and samplings.

“Come look at this, Lauren. Martini Merry Christmas.”

Before we knew it we were sampling Big Band Christmas.

Just in case you’re wondering Valentine’s Day is only three months away. Stuffed bears and chocolate hearts should hit store shelves shortly after the New Year.

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