Christmas Coming Early To Stores This Year

Tracy Glass and her 2-year-old son Hunter look at Christmas trees at Target in Durham, N.C., Monday, Nov.21, 2005 as the holiday shopping season gets underway.
It's not even November, and already Christmas markdowns have begun, upsetting shoppers such as Kim Fedor.

"You're not in the mood; it's 70-something degrees out, and it's very hot. You don't really feel like you're going Christmas shopping."

But, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Gielan, with the economy in a severe tailspin, retailers have jumped-started holiday sales, worrying that this holiday season may not be so merry for them.

"I understand why they do it," Fedor says. "They hope people like me are going to shop more."

A recent survey found that more than a-third of consumers say they're planning to spend less this Christmas.

This week, Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, began selling ten of its most popular toys for $10 each.

Early bargains will be a trend others will follow, says retail analyst Dana Tesley: "With Wall Street coming to Main Street, we're going to see retailers have excessive promotions through the holiday season."

But you'll have to do some digging to find the bargains, Gielan points out. One place to look is on the Internet. By printing out online coupons, you can save money at checkout.

"Be aware of online," Tesley advises, "watch the newspaperS, watch their mail. There'll be more drops this year with coupons or discounts that are being offered, because retailers need to move the merchandise."

Experts say this could be a good Christmas season for discount stores such as Target, Wal-Mart and Costco, as consumers try to make their holiday budget go further.

But many retailers are scaling back on inventory, anticipating that shoppers will be spending less. So, with less in stock, popular items could sell out. So, if you see something you really want, you might not want to wait to see if it goes on sale, Gielan notes.

"I definitively talked to my friends about setting budgets in terms of what we're getting for each other," one shopper volunteered.

Still, no matter how tight a budget is, parents will keep buying toys. Says Toys 'R' Us Senior Vice President Bob Giampietro, "History shows that, over time, our guests always take care of the little ones."

But will hard times mean Americans will opt for less expensive fun? One of the season's hottest toys is called Bakugon, an updated version of marbles, a favorite toy of Depression-era kids. A starter kit sells for less than $15.

There is, says Gielan, one holiday that retailers can get excited about though -- Halloween. Analysts predict sales will be up this year, maybe because everyone needs a little bit of an escape from all the economic turmoil.