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Retailers, consumers get early jump on holiday season

Holiday shoppers in New York City are seen in this file photo.

Michael Falco/The Globe and Mail

Trick-or-treating is barely over and the winter holiday shopping season is already upon us.

At least that's what some zealous companies are decreeing.

More and more consumers are getting the impression that the holiday promotional period creeps up sooner and sooner every year – in a growing number of cases, before Halloween.

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Auto maker BMW isn't about to put paid to that notion.

A few days ahead of Halloween the company launched its Christmas 2012 line of "lifestyle" gifts, including an orange BMW M3 Baby Racer toy car, sunglasses and cufflinks.

U.S. retail giant Target Corp. started airing its Christmas-themed television ad about two weeks ago.

Online coupon website recently nicknamed the new, stretched out shopping season "OctoNovemCember."

It said that its own consumer survey indicates that 39 per cent of shoppers get going on their gift-buying before November.

The growing popularity and ease of online shopping has contributed to the early shopping trend.

On Halloween morning, and Toys "R" Us put up holiday toys listings on their home pages, according to reports.

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The holiday season is a critical time for retailers, who depend on it for a major portion of their annual sales.

In the U.S., the unofficial start of holiday shopping is Black Friday – the Friday following Thanksgiving Day, which falls on Nov. 23 this year.

But many retailers now resort to promotions much earlier – especially online – with discounts and free-shipping deals, in hopes of boosting sales.

In Canada, Deloitte's annual holiday outlook survey -- released Thursday -- forecasts growth in retail sales over the past year of 1 to 2 per cent.

"Retailers are continuing to wait for a full economic recovery as customers remain quite price sensitive," Deloitte Canada's Canadian retail practice leader, Brent Houlden, said in a news release.

"With mounting competition, consumers will have an abundance of options for finding deals that deliver true value and savings."

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Among the survey's findings:

* 63.9 per cent of respondents said they will choose where they shop based on a store's low prices.

* Gift cards (59.4 per cent), clothing (42.2 per cent), toys and dolls (29.4 per cent) rank the highest on this year's wish lists.

* About 60 per cent said they plan to use a combination of online, mobile catalogue and store channels for holiday shopping to the same or greater extent as last year.

* 60 per cent -- up from 49 per cent in 2011 -- said they will use the web for such tasks as locating the lowest prices, doing product research and seeking validation from friends and family.

Deloitte Canada says the poll was conducted between Sept. 21 and Sept. 27 using a sample base of 2,349 Canadians who were interviewed on an online panel. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100 per cent response rate would have an estimated margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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About the Author
Quebec Business Correspondent

Bertrand has been covering Quebec business and finance since 2000. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2000, he was the Toronto-based national business correspondent for Southam News. He has a B.A. from McGill University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson. More


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