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It's starting to look a lot like Christmas

CHARLESTON, W.Va.--For the past several weeks, in the aisles of many local retailers, there's been a familiar refrain from shoppers: "It's Christmas already?"

Days before trick-or-treaters had even begun ringing doorbells this year, many local retail stores already were covering their windows with fake snow and lining their shelves with stocking stuffers.

Nationwide, retailers bank on big holiday sales to help boost annual revenue.

This year, large big-box stores are announcing Black Friday deals earlier than usual and offering new kinds of discounts, from Internet-only deals to coupons handed out over Facebook. Walmart, for instance, is advertising free shipping on many items purchased online.

Several local merchants said it isn't unusual to begin selling Christmas goods so soon, and there's a good reason for it.   

Count Magic Mart among stores that have long been ready for the upcoming holiday season.

"We started putting Christmas out weeks ago," said Ray Williams, manager of the store at Liberty Square in Putnam County said recently. "Our entire Christmas department has been set for a few days now. We have trees, lights, bows and knickknacks. We have cleared out our lawn and garden section and put Christmas there. We need to fill the space, plus it gives us a head start."

While the lawn and garden section has been cleared of summer items, it is still possible to find decorative goods for the yard.

"We have inflatables," he said. "Some are really big. We have a 12-foot-long train. We have a snow globe with a nativity in it, Santa on a John Deere tractor, and Santa putting a star on a tree."

Displaying holiday items over a period of several weeks alleviates the pressure and hard work of doing it all at once, he said.

"A lot of people like to shop early," he added. "We've sold a few trees and knickknacks. Maybe they are trying to catch the leftovers of last year's bargains."

Trees and decorations that did not sell last year are now being sold at reduced prices.

As last year's bargains are sold, new merchandise arrives.

"We are getting toys every day," he said.

Along the shops at Bridge Road in South Hills, light poles were decorated with garland and red bows days before Halloween, to get shoppers in the mood. 

Kohl's at Southridge has had Christmas wares displayed since early October. Items there range from dishes and place mats to decorations and candles, aimed at people who want to decorate early for the holidays. 

Larry Anderson, manager of the Fruth Pharmacy on Oakwood Road as well as in Cross Lanes, said his stores put holiday goods out early and add to the offerings as shelves are cleared of Halloween merchandise.

"We usually put it out in October for an early visual for customers to see what we will be carrying," he said.

More holiday wares are continuously being displayed from flowers and more trees to ornaments.

"Some people do buy early," he said.

A manager of Southridge Dollar Tree said Christmas wrap has been available there since August. Since then the store has added ornaments, stockings, Santa hats and candy.

"I think Christmas would sell year-round," he said. "Everyone is in the Christmas mood at some time."

Charlotte Adams, of several family-owned Hallmark stores in West Virginia, said new keepsake ornaments are introduced there as early as the second weekend of July. Boxed cards are available in early September and decorations come out in early October.

Early offerings are pleasing to ornament collectors, she said.

Customers who want to stretch dollars like to start shopping early and take advantage of layaway opportunities, she added.

The family has stores at Charleston Town Center, Dudley Farm, Nitro Marketplace, Morgantown and Vienna.       

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at"> or 304-348-1246.



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