For retailers, Christmas isn't just one winter holiday. It's a fourth quarter holiday, which means the Christmas begins in October and lasts through December. Mervyn's store employee Karen Worthington says early October is generally the start of the Christmas season for major retailers. At Mervyn's, Christmas is already in full swing with some items already on sale. "We're very optimistic in a cautious sort of way because consumer confidence is up,â€ Worthington said. â€œThe reports are in. Consumer confidence is great, but it's really too early for us to predict that it's going to be just this great blowout holiday season. But we are definitely optimistic."
Cyber merchants also have reason for optimism this holiday season. Instead of looking for a parking space at the mall, more and more people are parking themselves in front of their computers and shopping on-line. One on-line research firm predicts Internet sales will reach $6 billion this holiday season, nearly double last year's figures.
"Clothes, gifts and everything else is pretty much accessible on-line," said Sean Chantal, a full-time medical student with a part-time job and who says he doesn't have time for traditional shopping. He says he'll do all of his Christmas shopping on line this year. It saves a lot of time, and I don't like to wait in line at the cash register,â€ he said.
Many major retailers are responding to the on-line trend by opening e-stores.
As long as consumers keep buying their products, retailers don't really care whether shoppers are browsing in the store or at home or work using an Internet browser to find the perfect gift.
Retailers will be sharing the wealth this season by taking on temporary staff.
Mervyn's, for example, is looking to hire 40 new part-time people to help during the holiday season.