Sep 28, 2007
Getting the jump on Santa Claus: For some shoppers, it’s never too early to startBy Nell Luter

Amid rows of candy corn, ghouls and costumes, Santa is lurking around the corner as the holiday shopping season gets started.

Lauren Davis, manager at The Inside Story gift shop in Madison, said the store doesn’t have its holiday displays up yet, but employees are already wrapping purchases in holiday paper for customers who have started shopping.

Consumers are purchasing jewelry, handbags and home accessories as gifts, he said. Some even ask to have harvest-theme items wrapped for Christmas gifts, he said.

The National Retail Federation predicts holiday retail sales will rise 4 percent this year, to $474.5 billion. The federation defines holiday retail sales as retail industry sales during November and December.

Expect electronics, flat-screen televisions, video games and gift cards to be big sellers this year just like they were last year, according to one retail expert.

“I think this will be the biggest year yet for gift cards,” said George Whalen, president of Retail Management Consultants of San Marcos, Calif. “Gift cards are so well- accepted.”

Just how big the holiday season will be remains to be seen, but it should be a good year for bargain hunters, he said.

“Retailers are not going into it with inventories that are high,” he said. “What we will see is that pricing will be aggressive in order to get customers.”

Holiday sales nationwide will probably be about the same as last year, said Whalen, who doesn’t make a more specific prediction about holiday retail sales. “There’s too many clouds on the horizon to give us all a warm and fuzzy feeling,” he said.

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