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by Jenny Kincaid Boone

Call it a collision of the seasons — Christmas meets the sultry days of August.

Pam Gaylor didn’t hide her shock. She walked past the Christmas holiday get-up at Sears, situated diagonally from several five-piece patio furniture sets, a large outdoor awning and flower pots in the garden department.

“I can’t believe they’ve got this out,” Gaylor said, staring at the shelves of lit-up Lemax-brand village buildings, Mickey Mouse ornaments and bags of fluffy, fake white snow.

“It has to at least be cold for me … at least football season.”

But outside temperatures and the seasonal calendar don’t necessarily play a part in every retail decision, particularly this year. There’s more pressure than ever for retailers to get an early start on what economists predict will be a very difficult holiday season, overshadowed by the economic downturn and pressures on consumer spending.

In the unnoticed corners of stores and in back rooms and storage warehouses, retailers are stocking up for the holidays, the biggest season for shopping of the year.

So while consumers steal deals on bookbags, blue jeans and tank tops for 50 percent off, some retailers are marketing Christmas lights, sliding out boxes of holiday garland and setting up shelves of village sets.

Whether or not this early holiday array turns off shoppers like Gaylor is a gamble.

Read complete article.

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