Holiday meerchandise drives business of local retailers

Troy Stanger

Troy Stanger

By Molly Rafter

Christmas in July? Many people find themselves brushing elbows with Christmas and even Valentine’s Day merchandise months – and sometimes even half a year – before the actual holidays take place.

The holidays seem to be approaching quicker and quicker each year and the need for local retailers to begin advertising them does as well.

However, the age-old question still exists: Is it just businesses’ way of using the holidays as a selling ploy or is it the retailers’ response to the typical holiday shopper’s desire to shop around earlier?

Hallmark stores start selling Christmas merchandise as early as July.

“Every year we sell the previous season’s Christmas merchandise on sale in July,” said Cindy Becker, manager of Andi’s Hallmark, located at 119 Lincoln Square in Urbana.

However, Becker said, “Even though we get a good number of people buying the (Christmas) merchandise in July, the majority of our Christmas sales come from early December.”

Not only does Hallmark sell Christmas merchandise as early as mid-summer, they sell Valentine’s Day items well in advance as well.

“December 26th is the day we begin taking down all of our Christmas items and replacing them with our Valentine’s Day items,” Becker said.

“We find it beneficial to our sales to begin selling our items early,” she said.

Many students at the University agree that retailers start advertising the holidays very early.

“Right when Thanksgiving hits, all of the specials and sales begin,” said Alicia Aguirre, freshman in LAS.

“I think it’s a smart idea on the retailer’s part because it gives the customers more time to shop around,” she said.

Moonstruck Chocolate Caf‚, located at 709 S. Wright St. in Champaign, does just that.

“We begin selling our Christmas merchandise the day after Thanksgiving,” said Scott Holben, director of retail operations for Moonstruck.

“We like to spread out selling our merchandise as much as we can around the Christmas and holiday season,” he said.

Holben also said that Moonstruck sells Christmas merchandise early because they find many students on campus buying their gift items right before finals and before going home for the long winter break.

“We typically begin selling our Valentine’s Day items in mid-January because that’s when we do a lot of business with the students,” Holben said.

Although some local retailers choose to sell their holiday merchandise early, other stores such as Walgreen’s do not.

“Walgreen’s is unique. We typically are a last-minute holiday destination for many customers,” said Carol Hively, Walgreen’s corporate spokeswoman.

“We anticipate the bulk of our holiday sales 1-2 days (before), if not the day of the holiday,” Hively said.

Hively also stated that although Walgreen’s does stock holiday merchandise well before the holiday season, they do not begin to sell it until very close to the day.

“Our message is to be convenience-oriented. I believe our sales reflect that,” she said.

Campus Florist, located at 609 E. Green St., begins selling Valentine’s Day merchandise the first day of February.

“We advertise our specials in the local newspapers somewhat early, but we really believe that starting to sell our Valentine’s Day gifts close to the (Feb. 14) holiday works for us,” said Phyllis Valentine, manager of Campus Florist.

Some students agree with the early advertising and sales.

“The holidays are the best time of year to make a profit. Why not take advantage of it?” said Shweta Malladi, freshman in LAS.