You might not be feeling the time pressure yet, but retailers are. Success in the fourth quarter is often key to annual performance, and in tough economic times the competition for customer dollars is fierce, said Dave Cheatham, managing principal of Velocity Retail Group.
"Retailers are determined not to be left on the sidelines," he said. "They're reinventing the rules on how to do holiday shopping."
And there is some basis for the Christmas-in-August approach. "We do know that 40 percent of holiday shoppers say they begin shopping before Halloween," said Kathy Grannis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. If it draws in even a few extra customers, early action can be a big advantage in a competitive season, she said.
Shoppers, however, can keep calm and carry on—and ignore the retail ho-ho-hoing for a few more weeks. "This is not a big time for toy sales. Pool clearance, maybe?" said Edgar Dworsky, founder of consumer advocacy site ConsumerWorld.org. Deals tend to pick up in early October, he said, which gives price-hunting shoppers a roughly six-week reprieve.