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'TIS THE SEASON 114 SHOPPING DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS MANY STORES GETTING AN EARLIER START.

Byline: JULIA M. SCOTT Staff Writer

Santa Claus had better have on a thick coat of sunscreen because the wintry saint is getting plenty of exposure this summer.

Father Christmas is popping up in stores months before the Dec. 25 holiday, when scores of people mark the birth of Jesus Christ with frenzied gift giving.

T.J. Maxx, Hallmark, Costco and HomeGoods are stuffing their shelves with soft-eyed angels and glittering ornaments even though Christmas is 114 days away.

``We find the minute they go on the floor, they sell,'' said T.J. Maxx spokeswoman Laura McDowell. ``The customers are very responsive to it.''

One in seven people start their holiday shopping before September, according to Scott Krugman of the National Retail Federation. Close to 40 percent of consumers hit the stores with holiday lists in hand before November.

``That says it all right there,'' Krugman said. ``Even though we tend to procrastinate, a lot of consumers tend to get a jump-start.''

Sima Shishmanyan shops year-round for Christmas, her favorite holiday, and tucks presents into a spare room until the big day.

``I know what I want to buy,'' said Shishmanyan, 28, of Van Nuys, as she passed a fuzzy snowman at T.J. Maxx in Winnetka. Books and clothes for her young daughters, purses for her sisters, and picture albums for her friends.

``I start even from the beginning of the year,'' she said.

Selling Christmas goods is one way retailers can extend the lucrative holiday season and boost sales in summer, which can be slow.

Receipts in July and August account for roughly 15 percent of sales, Krugman said. But sales during the winter holiday season, which the Federation measures as November through December, can surge to as much as 40 percent of their yearly take.

Hallmark unveils dozens of tiny porcelain ornaments long before the lazy days of summer subside.

``Lives are busier, people are making increasing efforts to organize and get ahead,'' said Hallmark spokeswoman Rachel Bolton. ``For some people, it's avoiding the crowds. For some people, it's getting those cards addressed and getting them out of the way before you start decorating and cooking.''

Starting July 15, Hallmark hangs delicate red and green decorations next to its robust collection of greeting cards. Customers can choose from sparkling angels, a puppy poking out of a red mitten or Santa playing with a train set, among others.

Hallmark sells hundreds of thousands of the ``collectibles'' each year, Bolton said.

Buying gifts to put under the tree is the last thing on Pari Tavokoli's mind these days. The 47-year-old from Woodland Hills buys everything on her list in a whirlwind three days before Christmas. That way, she doesn't buy too much, she said.

``They are forcing people to shop more than they need to,'' she said, glancing at the holiday figurines at T.J. Maxx. ``They buy and buy and then their house is full of junk.''

julia.scott(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3735

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3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- color) A Santa on summer vacation, above, is one of the Christmas items on sale at the T.J. Maxx store in Winnetka, where, right, shoppers look over holiday figurines and other decorations that have already appeared in many stores this year.

(3) Sima Shishmanyan looks over Christmas items on sale Thursday afternoon at the T.J. Maxx store in Winnetka. Stores seem to be offering holiday items earlier this year.

Tom Mendoza/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 2, 2006
Words:578
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