Jumping the gun on holiday cheer…

images-5.jpegYesterday, many of the nation’s largest retailers reported their weakest October sales in 12 years. Among those whose same store sales were down were Macy’s (M), which reported a 1.5% drop and Kohl’s (KSS), which reported a 3.8% drop.

Of course, anyone who’s been in a store lately had to have known things were looking a bit glum heading into the big holiday season. Why? Because many stores started pushing Xmas in mid-October. Several weeks ago, I was in the White Plains’ Bloomingdale’s and the holiday display was already up, with a strange sign that “apologized” for it being so early. Last weekend (Nov. 3) at the Lord & Taylor’s in Paramus, the Christmas carols were already playing in a perpetual loop, which the sales person who helped me, admitted was insane, not to mention annoying. And, yesterday, Starbucks (SBUX), which hasn’t reported its same store sales for October yet, kicked off its holiday campaign. At a Starbucks in midtown yesterday, the guy who served my coffee (wearing Starbucks’ official red holiday t-shirt) also said the season seemed to be starting earlier and earlier. A quick scan of Starbucks’ old press releases confirms that: the official holiday kick-off started on Nov. 12 in 2003. So that’s a day earlier each of the past four years.
Now, we’re sure it’s entirely coincidental that many of the same companies that are pushing the holiday cheer ever earlier are also trading at or near their 52-week lows: Starbucks, Macy’s, Kohl’s. Of course, if you believe that, believing in Santa Claus isn’t that much further of a stretch.