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Halloween's Ghosts and Goblins Making Early Appearance This Year.

Weeks before October 31, marketers, retailers and media companies are busily painting the town orange with panoplies of pumpkins, skeins of skeletons, and gaggles of ghosts, reports The New York Times.

The nation's leading discount chains were hauling out the Halloween decorations and merchandise around Labor Day. Since then, magazines with Halloween cover articles -- and ads -- have started to arrive.

A primary goal of the early peddling, those involved say, is to satisfy the needs of consumers who are already in the mood for Halloween. The holiday has grown in the last decade to become a popular and lucrative part of the retail and editorial calendars as adults join children in celebration.

"We've found our customers begin thinking about Halloween shortly after Labor Day," said Karen Burk, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Stores in Bentonville, Ark., the largest retailer in the nation.

This year, the Wal-Mart stores were in Halloween mode by September 8 and 9, the weekend after Labor Day.

At the Target division of Target, Halloween products went on display in stores in early September, said Amy von Walter, a spokeswoman in Minneapolis. On the Target Web site (target.com), she added, Halloween merchandise has been available even longer, since August 1.

At Kmart, a division of Sears Holdings, the stores took on their Halloween dress on September 4, the day after Labor Day, said Kirsten Whipple, a spokeswoman in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Similarly, executives at magazines and magazine Web sites ascribe the celebration of Halloween in September to reader demand.

"We noticed about five years ago that right after Labor Day, right after back-to-school, we were getting an uptick in hits on the Web site on information about Halloween costumes," said Dan Hickey, editor in chief at bhg.com in Des Moines, the Web site for Better Homes and Gardens magazine, both part of the Meredith Corporation, "and it kept growing."

That led to the creation of "100 Days of Holidays," a section of the Web site (bhg.com/holidays) that goes live each year on September 24 -- 100 days from New Year's Day.

Likewise, said Gayle Butler, editor in chief at Better Homes and Gardens, reader feedback led to a decision to place "a little bit more emphasis on Halloween this year" in the October issue, which comes out in September.

Steven Grune, vice president and publisher at Country Living in New York, echoed the Meredith editors. It was reader response, Grune said, that motivated a decision to kick off three consecutive months of holiday celebrations.

"Halloween is like Christmas in the sense that people like to start celebrating it very early," said Jane Chesnutt, editor in chief at Woman's Day in New York. "If you drive through suburbia near the end of September, the Halloween decorations will be out in full force."

If you are surprised at Halloween ads not long after Labor Day, brace yourself: the September and October issues of several magazines are running ads for Christmas merchandise.

For example, Family Circle, another Meredith magazine, is carrying ads for a cookbook, Pillsbury Holiday Baking, and bric-a-brac from a direct marketer, Hawthorne Village, under the name "Thomas Kinkade's Wonderland Express Christmas Tree."

The Christmas shopping season can typically account for up to half the yearly revenue of retailers. In fall 2005, when merchants worried that rising prices for gasoline and heating oil would crimp Christmas spending, some sought to "front run" the season: Rather than wait for November, they decorated stores and stocked merchandise before Halloween.

Now, as worries intensify over the health of the housing market, there is speculation about similar efforts to cash in before shoppers cut back.

One retailer, J. C. Penney, said it had no plans to move up Christmas advertising. The vast majority will begin "in mid-November in preparation for the pre-Thanksgiving weekend," said Darcie M. Brossart, a spokeswoman in Plano, Texas.

At Target, von Walter said, "The timing is the same as in previous years," when Christmas merchandise started appearing "typically the first weekend after Halloween."

Still, for those who cannot wait, target.com has been selling Christmas products since September 1, she added.
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Publication:Gourmet Retailer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 18, 2007
Words:685
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