Early holiday merch – love it or hate it?

Early holiday merch – love it or hate it?

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It’s that time of year again: when the shelves at big box stores and small mom and pop shops are filled with Valentine’s Day merchandise, but at the same time customers are likely to see St. Patrick’s Day and maybe even Easter products as well.

For Kristine Teto, owner of The Hopscotch Room gift shop in North Providence, the best way to describe the phenomenon is “seasonal crawl,” she told The Valley Breeze. “It starts creeping,” she said, of holiday merchandise that fills the shop long before the actual holidays roll around.

At Stop & Shop on Mendon Road in Cumberland and at CVS on Mineral Spring Avenue in North Providence, Valentine’s Day products arrived at the store right after Christmas, according to managers at those locations. At CVS, staff members have to place the holiday merchandise on the shelves because there’s no place for it in the back room.

Teto started rolling out the Valentine’s Day products – including jewelry, scarves with holiday prints, spa soaps, and lotions – at the end of January, she said, noting that Christmas starts right after Halloween “mostly because the chain stores have their things out.”

Last week at the store, in addition to Valentine’s Day, there were also St. Patrick’s Day-themed products, and while Easter goods aren’t out until after St. Patrick’s Day, Teto said they do have spring motifs including butterflies and birds.

“It’s a necessity on the one hand and manufactured on the other hand,” Teto said. “It depends on how you look at it. The customers dictate what goes on. … It feels like there’s a holiday all the time.”

She noted that the Hopscotch Room has a dedicated room for Christmas products all year long because people like to buy ornaments all times of the year.

Staff at The Hopscotch Room also plan events around holidays, including a Galentine’s celebration on Saturday, Feb. 15, at the store, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., featuring samples of sangria and snacks.

Katie Bibeault, store manager of her family’s business, With Heart & Soul in Cumberland, said they put out Valentine’s Day gifts and products three weeks ago, yet many customers flock to the store the week – or day – of the holiday.

Big box stores “put stuff out super early (and) go crazy with all of those holidays,” Bibeault said. “We definitely don’t do that.”

North Providence resident Linh Ngo said she’s not bothered by how early Valentine’s Day goods are on the shelves, but said that she plans to buy gifts the week or even the day of the holiday. It’s “annoying” when Christmas decorations are out right after Halloween, she added. “Keep holidays in the right month.”

“Sometimes (customers) protest and I get it,” Teto said, but for her the bottom line is that people only have so much money to spend and if they see something at a chain store first, they’re apt to buy it.

“Personally I don’t care to put the stuff out too, too early,” she said. “By the time the holiday rolls out, it’s old news.”

Despite gifts being available for weeks ahead of a holiday, it seems that many folks still wait until the last second to do their shopping.

Both Teto and Bibeault said they have a lot of customers who come in looking for last minute gifts, whether they’ve waited until or were invited to something at the last minute.

“I feel like all of us as a whole are last-minute people,” Bibeault said.

Andrew Pappas, of North Providence, who was shopping at CVS in North Providence last Thursday, said “it’s not a big deal” when asked how he feels about holiday merchandise creeping earlier and earlier into stores, though, like Ngo, he said he’ll wait until the last minute to shop.

“It is what it is. … It gets people thinking about the holiday,” he said. Stores like Target “might go overboard,” but in drugstores like CVS the holiday-themed goods only take up a few dedicated shelves. “It might bug some people.”

Sue Lourenco, who works at The Hopscotch Room gift shop in North Providence, rearranges a Valentine’s Day display at the store last Thursday. (Breeze photo by Melanie Thibeault)