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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Andrea Martinez, left, and Esther Cabrera talk about holiday shopping while at the City Creek Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012.

SALT LAKE CITY — Ready or not, the holiday season has officially arrived. And it's earlier than ever.

Call it "holiday creep," an increasingly early start to the holiday shopping season. Salt Lake City is hardly immune to the national trend.

As strands of Christmas music played in background Saturday morning, Kelli Shaw of Ogden strolled through City Creek Center for her family's annual girls' shopping day. Earlier in the week, Santa Claus arrived at downtown Salt Lake's new shopping center for the unveiling of holiday windows at Macy's and other festivities to kick off the winter holidays.

As a shopper who prefers to complete her holiday shopping early, Shaw said she welcomes the early start.

"I always try to get everything done by December 1 so I can enjoy the holidays," she said.

However, Shaw draws the line at stores being open on Thanksgiving day. "They (retail employees) should be able to be with their families. Shopping should be such a small part of it," she said. 

"It's all about food, family and sweat pants."

Retail industry officials say 40 percent of consumers planned to start their holiday shopping before Halloween, suggesting there is demand for earlier shopping opportunities.

Another shopper at City Creek Center, Keith Waters of Orlando, Fla., said "holiday creep" extends to the point that once the actual holidays arrive, he's somewhat tired of the season.

"I'd prefer they didn't but I kind of think the free market takes care of itself," he said.

A Target employee in California started an online petition urging corporate leaders to back off the plan to open its stores at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving. The petition has more than 200,000 signatures. 

The holiday is one of the few that workers had been able to spend with their families, Target worker Casey St. Clair told CNN. St. Clair has worked part-time for the company for six years.

Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, Sears and Kmart are also scheduled to open Thanksgiving night, and an hour earlier than Target.

Shayla Christensen of Blackfoot, Idaho said her family has Thanksgiving dinner at her grandmothers' house each year, with some 60 people in attendance. "You should be able to spend that time with family."

Her sister Megan Christensen concurred: "I don't like that I have to work the day after Thanksgiving. I feel that's bad enough. Everyone should have that time off. It's a time for family." 

Mary Talboys, a licensed clinical social worker and director of services for the University Neuropsychiatric Institute, said "holiday creep" can be problematic.

"It's not good. Then the stress gets going earlier in the season. The kids get amped up with expectations," Talboys said.

Even though holiday shopping opportunities abound prior to the traditional post-Thanksgiving kickoff, families should remember what they value about the holiday season, whether it's family gatherings, religious observances or gift giving.

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Shoppers who object to retailers extending the shopping season and take offense to workers being required to work on Thanksgiving may want to stay home.

If large numbers of people shop later in the season, "maybe they (retailers) won't do it so early next year," Talboys said. 

For Andrea Martinez of Provo, the early start to shopping season helps her keep her holiday stress in check.

"I feel like it's nice to get it out of the way. I get a little anxious during the holidays if I don't have my shopping done. I try to get it done by Black Friday."

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com