Happy Christmas? Winter holiday retail sales nip heels of trick-or-treat season.

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 1 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Amelie Wright, dressed as a Vampire princess, points out some Christmas items to her stepdad, Peter Fawson, and little brother, Lucas Wright, as they walk past the Christmas section at a Salt Lake City Smith's grocery store Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. The store was set up as a demonstration store to showcase to other managers in the region how a Kroger grocery store should be set up for the winter holiday season.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — You may have woken up this morning to find a few smashed pumpkins on the street in front of your house.

And some not-so-considerate trick-or-treaters may have left a few candy wrappers on your lawn.

There's no time to get upset about it. Christmas and the other winter holidays are nigh. Drop by any grocery or home improvement store and you'll notice that Christmas has arrived, ready or not.

In many Utah retail locations, Christmas and Hanukkah items are on the same aisles as the dregs of the Halloween candy and decorations. On the heels of lucrative Halloween season — during which Americans spend $1 billion a year on children's costumes alone, according to the National Retail Federation — retailers want to make specialty items available early to stimulate Christmas sales, too.

"I was in one of our Smith's Marketplace stores over the weekend and yes, it's up and running," saidMarsha Gilford, vice president of public affairs for Smith's Food & Drug Stores, of the Christmas season.

While some grouse about one holiday stacked upon another, many shoppers enjoy the opportunity "to pace themselves," she said.

"Maybe they'll want to get the decorations early, they can use their cash later to buy presents."

Shoppers have different patterns of shopping. Some will miss a night's sleep to be the first in line for Black Friday bargains. Others relish the last-minute shopping experience.

"Some people like to get the first selection and make sure they have everything they want," said Gilford.

That applies across the board, whether it's décor, gifts or ingredients for foods prepared only during the holiday season, she said.

Manufacturing schedules can dictate when Christmas items end up in the stores, said Kris Romeril, spokesman for Associated Food Stores. 

Grocery chains precommit to purchase certain amounts of candy or decorations, which guides manufacturers' production activity.

Christmas items may be ordered eight months in advance, which means retailers in the throes of Christmas business are now selecting items for Easter, Romeril said.

National sales projections for the 2011 holiday season are "average," according to the National Retail Federation.

The industry trade group, in a Washington Post report, said it expects "a paltry 2.8 percent increase in holiday retail sales, to $465.6 billion — far below the 5.2 percent increase retailers experienced in 2010."

NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz, said the combination of persistently high unemployment, an erratic stock market, modest income growth and rising consumer prices could affect holiday spending.

"How Americans will react to shaky economic data is the question, but the good news for retailers is that shoppers have not yet thrown in the towel," he said.

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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