Thursday, July 9, 2009

In the news

My first reaction to this was: how ridiculous! selling Christmas goods in the summertime just looks bad - it's like strappy sandals below 50 degrees.

But then I thought - how sad that people need to save for over 5 months to buy Christmas decorations for their kids, and that they need layaway to help them save.

Then I laughed when I saw the Walmart banner ad embedded in the article.

(In other news, MC Hammer apparently still performs in public - he's appearing in Chicago this weekend!)

Sears puts out Christmas gear

Stores, Web sites feature holiday decor

By Sandra M. Jones

Tribune reporter

July 9, 2009

It's Christmas in July at Sears Holdings Corp.

On Sunday, while most of America was recovering from Fourth of July fireworks and cookouts, the Hoffman Estates-based retailer launched an online boutique called Christmas Lane at and It also set up Christmas decor shops at 372 Sears stores, including one at Woodfield mall in Schaumburg.

Sears typically waits until Nov. 1 to unveil its holiday merchandise, said Sears spokeswoman Natalie Norris-Howser. But with the recession putting a crimp in spending, the retailer is hoping to attract holiday shoppers early.

"This is the first year we've done the Christmas Lane event," said Norris-Howser. "We're allowing customers to put these items on layaway and pay over time."

Kmart got a boost in sales during the holiday season last year when it promoted a long-forgotten layaway program as an alternative to credit cards. Sears followed suit in November. Under a layaway program, shoppers pay for merchandise in installments and take the goods home after they are paid in full.

The Web page features a drawing of a main shopping street covered in snow and Christmas wreaths and an airplane flying a banner that says, "Free shipping for purchases over $75." The site also showcases cold-weather gear such as snow blowers and electric blankets.

Last year, worried about a slowdown in consumer spending, many merchants, including Home Depot, Kohl's and Walgreens, began stocking their shelves with holiday wrapping paper, trim and trees in September.

The phenomenon, known as Christmas creep, is expected to kick into overdrive this year as retailers fight for their share of shoppers' shrinking pocketbooks.

Most retailers generate 20 percent to 30 percent of their annual sales during the holiday season. Sears took in 28 percent of its annual revenue in its fiscal fourth quarter last year. USA, LLC

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