Amid recent unusually warm, sunny fall days, it might seem that the sound of “Jingle Bells” and swirls of red and green crept up earlier this year.
Sales strategies have indeed evolved over the years, and today, many large retail stores have capitalized on knowing that about 40 percent of consumers begin their holiday shopping before Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation. But some local shops in McPherson say an annual tradition of Holiday Open House has shielded the town from what could be a never-ending battle for first.
For about 20 years, McPherson’s Holiday Open House has been reserved for the first weekend in November. Most debut their Christmas decorations and products for the first time then. Rather than competing against large box stores, they partner together to make the weekend appealing to locals.
“I wouldn’t say they’re pushing us,” Judy Anderson, designer and buyer at Stone Chimney, said. “We want to be part of what McPherson Main Street is offering.”
Workers at Stone Chimney closed for three days prior to Holiday Open House, changing displays and creating anticipation for their customers. Guests packed the store on Eshelman Street when it opened back up Nov. 1. Prior to this date, the store did not display any Christmas items.
“We hear a lot that Thanksgiving isn’t given the attention it deserves,” Anderson said. “They’re also frustrated because they haven’t even thought about Thanksgiving and they go to these places and it’s Christmas already. It’s important to them they have that fall and Thanksgiving season as well."
Jonna Corrigan, manager at The Cook’s Nook, said she does not feel significant pressure from larger stores to get her products out early. Instead, the 23-year-old store is prepared year-round to provide what customers need. The store has holiday wrapping paper available year round, for example, with some asking for the service in the summertime.
“It gives us a chance to see what the people like before Thanksgiving,” she said. “If you don’t have it out, you are missing out.”
Brooklyn & Co. staff felt some of the push toward Christmas this year. They removed their Halloween decorations two days before the October holiday.
“It feels we’re getting forced into that and almost skipping the fall season,” owner Brenda Ebeling said. “They’re pushing every bit of eight weeks of shopping.”
If it wasn’t for McPherson’s open house weekend, Ebeling said she might have pushed her holiday display set up for a week. That was not the case, however, and the store has begun playing Christmas music throughout the store. The tunes are even sent outside to draw customers into the mood of the holiday.
Page 2 of 2 - “I think the music plays a big part of it,” Ebeling said. “It sets a good mood.”
Margaret Kaufman of Goodland, who was shopping in downtown McPherson this week, said pushes like music and decorations catch her by surprise sometimes, but it gets her thinking about Christmas presents. She said this can result in her buying earlier because she worries about wanted items being gone from the shelves if she waits too long.
Greg Ernzen of Salina, who was also shopping downtown this week, said the Christmas surge is unpleasant at times.
“Christmas has become a retailer’s holiday,” he said. “For me, it kind of turns me off. It does have its benefits, though. People that want to save money get those sales early."
Janice Harty of rural McPherson said she enjoys the consistency of McPherson’s Christmas beginnings every year.
“It might be a little early, but so much is coming up, I can see why they do it,” she said. “It keeps it the same weekend each year. That’s kind of nice.”