The forgotten holiday? | NevadaAppeal.com

The forgotten holiday?

Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer

‘Twas mid-August in Carson and all through Best Buy

Shoppers had no idea that Christmas was nigh

Under their noses corporate had sent

Holiday posters, wall-hangings and reminders for how paychecks’d be spent

Now four months later the buyers line the streets

To grab a flat-screen TV or an iPhone treat

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Do any dare ask ‘What about Thanksgiving?’

Not with tummies already full and football teams winning

The holiday rush this year started in the summer

But only a handful of Carson residents think that’s a bummer.

South Lake Tahoe, Calif., resident Kelly Heslin stood in the parking lot of Trader Joe’s. Her braided pigtails flapped against her shoulders as the strong winter-is-coming afternoon breeze came off the Sierra Nevada.

She clasped her rainbow-knit skull cap close to her head for warmth with her right hand and balanced three paper bags on the bumper of her car with her left.

Her self-packed grocery bags brimmed with exotic teas, bottles of red wine and sparkling water. Cranberry sauce and granola snuggled up together beside the orange juice; a packet of frozen veggies kept cold a bag of potatoes and yams.

Just a few items necessary to get into the “Thanksgiving mood,” she said.

“Yep, I’ll be spending it with the folks this year,” she said. “Oh yeah – I’m looking forward to it, for sure.”

As the wind escalated, Heslin turned and quickly began to fill the trunk of her white sedan with groceries.

Just a few short days before the holiday honoring family, friends and giving thanks – nearby shoppers seemed to have other things in mind.

Across the parking lot at Wal-Mart, 50-plus inch HDTVs were shoved into the back of SUVs. Already-decorated artificial Christmas trees were dragged from pushcarts in giant cardboard boxes and propped up against truck tail gates.

Three stores down at World Market, shopping baskets of wreaths and garland, poinsettias and red candles – festive wines and red bows – spilled over as customers dodged zealous motorists competing for a space closer to the store’s entrance.

A parade of shoppers, with workers assisting, exited Best Buy in neat twos and threes; carts spinning sideways from the uneven weight of HDTVs and major appliances. Smiles and voices notched slightly higher than normal exhorting the deals found inside.

The giant blue store’s electric sliding doors were stuck open from the number of buyers coming in and out – with assembly-line precision.

Finally, to break up the monotony of the giant gift barrage, a woman surfaced from the store’s entrance carrying only a computer keyboard.

She’d just come to the electronics giant for a simple errand. But no, hers wasn’t the place to turn her back on the rampant consumerism.

“I’m just buying a keyboard today – but I’ve done my shopping online,” said Carson resident Melanie Hadjes. “This was just an errand. I’m sure I’ll be back out to finish up a few things.

“I’ll celebrate Thanksgiving, yes – but the people I talk to start shopping early and they’ve got shopping on the mind.”

About 20 percent of online shoppers started their holiday shopping earlier this year than last year, according to an October survey released by BizRate Research for Shop.org, an online retailers association.

To capture the online audience early, stores like Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Target rolled out their holiday promotions by the first week in November, the survey said.

“We’ve been getting ready from corporate since August,” said Carson Best Buy manager Jerry Bryant. “That’s when we first start getting stuff to set up and (notices) on deals.”

Bryant said the seasonal push should culminate on Black Friday – the recently minted term to describe the day after Thanksgiving – one of the biggest days of the retail year.

While Bryant said he expected “lines of customers waiting for us to open” Friday, he noted that sales over the past two months have spiked over previous years.

“People definitely will be out here Friday,” he said. “It’s our busiest day for sure and we look forward to it. But I don’t think that’s stopped people from coming out early this year.”

Stretching out the Christmas shopping season to October in a year marked by the seemingly never-ending war in Iraq, a noticeable spike in oil prices and the floor of the housing market hitting bottom – it was “probably a good strategy” for retailers to get buyers out early – one shopper said.

“We were looking for a deal to get a new TV around Christmas and this one’s half off,” said Virginia City resident Mike Markert gesturing to his new 50-inch HDTV he was busy loading on the bed of his truck’s trailer this week. “It’s the last one like it in the valley – so we’re lucky.

“Kind of like an early Christmas present for the family.”

Markert said beyond the TV, he’s finished his Christmas shopping already, taking advantage of deals both online and early specials in stores.

“I think people just feel better if they get it done early,” he said.

Has the spirit of giving overshadowed the rite of Thanksgiving? Markert said no.

“I think people still look at Thanksgiving as its own, separate, special holiday,” he said. “I know my family celebrates it – looks forward to it. Yes, the Christmas stuff starts earlier, but I don’t think it takes away from any one holiday.”

Local retailers noted getting people to look forward to the holidays is a positive thing – one that does not overshadow an “American tradition and a major family holiday” like Thanksgiving.

“I think people put aside a lot of the day-to-day worries when it comes to the magic of Christmas,” said Kevin Ray, a spokesman from the Carson Mall. “I do believe people set aside their concerns during the holiday time. It’s a time to create the magic for the kids. And, in what has been a particularly stressful year – it’s great to have Santa Claus and the magic of the season.”

The “magic” retailers are trying to conjure early would help them reach a 2007 goal of $457 billion in sales nationwide in November and December, according to the National Retail Federation, a trade association, which predicted in September a subdued holiday gain (5 percent) over last year.

But that doesn’t quell the hopes of some local store managers.

“It’s going to be a big year,” said Best Buy’s Bryant the week before Thanksgiving. “It’s been a strong year for us and we think people are coming out for the good deals.

“It is the season.”

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at apridgen@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.