When it comes to the big-box stores and retailers, few decisions are made without the marketing research to back it up. This leads one to wonder, when exactly did research show retailers that the American consumer wants to buy and prepare for a holiday months ahead of time?

Exactly six days before Thanksgiving, I suddenly decided I wanted a new centerpiece on the table for our holiday dinner. I thought no big deal, just go out to one store, maybe two, and get what I need. That thinking turned out to be a little too optimistic.

After all, we are talking days before Thanksgiving, which means any kind of turkey-day decorations and merchandise was probably on clearance, or sold around Halloween.

We started at Kohl’s, which had a small pile of place mats on clearance. They were a good deal, going for $1.79 each, but the store had no centerpiece material fitting for Thanksgiving.

However, there were at least six aisles of Christmas decorations and supplies.

Then, we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond. That would turn out to be a second strike.

Then, putting our thinking caps on, we decided to make a centerpiece, heading to Michaels. The thinking behind this decision seemed solid. Find a nice basket, buy some pumpkins to go along with orange leaves and red berries, and make a nice arrangement.

Michaels became the third strike. Thanksgiving was so last week, even though it was still six days away. The store was packed with Christmas cheer. There was enough Christmas cheer in every aisle for the month. However, with Christmas less than 30 days away, consumers had better get on the ball.

At this rate, all stores will be replacing Christmas decorations in for Valentine’s Day by Dec. 15. After all, we all know consumers start thinking about what to do for Valentine’s Day at least two months in advance. Those candy hearts, chocolates and stuffed bears holding a heart will be flying off the shelves in no time.

I really started noticing this problem last year. It was as if a store couldn’t wait for the new holiday season to come into view. They couldn’t wait to fill those holiday aisles with new merchandise one month, or maybe two months in advance.

Take Valentine’s Day for instance, once the actual holiday for lovebirds came closer, retailers began moving out that merchandise in preparation of Easter, then Easter was replaced with July 4, and the cycle continues.

The holiday theme of the week is not just sustained to supplies. Clothing is also being moved in and out like the weather. Christmas dresses started filling the children’s aisles before Halloween.

It would be nice to see just one retailer keep the current holiday’s merchandise in the store through the holiday. Putting the merchandise on clearance, or removing it before the holiday even happens seems crazy.

By the end of the day, we did find a Thanksgiving centerpiece. Pier One Imports had a small basket of clearance items near the front door. The items included a small package of decorated pumpkins and gourds and red berries. Then, they had small baskets on sale. We managed to put together a small, but eye-pleasing centerpiece for under $10. The problem is it took three hours of shopping to do it.

— Thelma Grimes

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