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Westchester Shoppers: Heard of 'Christmas Creep'?

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. — If the next time you visit your local chain or department store it feels like you're in Santa’s Workshop, do not be alarmed. You’re witnessing the retail phenomenon of “Christmas creep.”

The term, which can also be adapted for other holidays like Halloween and Valentine’s Day, was coined to describe the phenomenon of retailers who seem to be moving up the day they start putting out stock for the holiday shopping season each year.

"I don't look at it, it's too early, unless they're going to throw a really big sale," said Michele Antonazzo, a Cortlandt Manor resident, as she shopped in a Michael's arts and crafts store at the Cortlandt Town Center Wednesday.

An entire aisle of the store had been devoted to glittering Christmas ornaments, plastic holly leaves of all colors, gold reindeer, wreaths and ribbons.

“To me it's a nuisance," she said. "I want to look forward to one holiday, and get through the next," Antonazzo said.

Both online and brick-and-mortar stores participate in Christmas creep this to take advantage of Christmas-related shopping well before Black Friday, even more now that shoppers have slimmer budgets given the economic downturn.

According to a study released by Responsys, 15 percent of top online retailers have already started plugging the holidays in their email campaigns, up from 11 percent at the same time in the past two years.

At Kohl’s in Bedford Hills Wednesday, an entire back corner of the store was devoted to Christmas items, complete with artificial trees, rows of baubles and embroidered stockings.

A Kohl’s employee said the store put out its Christmas stock the week before.

“It’s sort of a visual thing,” he said. “It’s kind of to make you like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve got get my Christmas shopping going! It’s right around the corner!’”

Yorktown resident Cynthia Bonifati was feeling the holiday pressure at Michael’s craft store. She called the store's Christmas aisle "frightening."

"It's too far away," said Bonifati. "It makes you feel like if you were a more organized mom, you would be on top of Christmas already."

Kathy Gannis, media relations director at the National Federation of Retailers is in charge of the trade group’s annual holiday forecast. She said that for a couple years now, late September or early October has been a starting point for some retailers.

For the past 10 years, the group’s holiday survey has shown that 40 percent of consumers said they begin their holiday shopping before Halloween.

“Retailers who have the customer base that like to shop early risk missing out on the sales if they don’t provide that merchandise for these early bird shoppers,” said Gannis.

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