More than two weeks still remain until Thanksgiving, but Christmas shopping is already well underway locally where merchants are projecting a better-than-average holiday season.
"We're expecting a good season-we're stocked to the gills," said Ken Kupsche, co-owner, with wife Dagmar, of The Cook's Shop on Front Street in Marietta.
He said customers have actually been Christmas shopping for the last month or two, and last week's holiday Merchants and Artist Walk brought plenty of business.
Janet and Jeff Campbell of Marietta view the newly-installed Christmas window display at The Cook’s Shop on Front Street Sunday afternoon.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
"There were 50 or 60 people packed in here at a time that night," Kupsche said.
He noted that due to a late Thanksgiving, on Nov. 28 this year, there will be fewer shopping days between that holiday and Christmas, which has prompted many retailers to encourage customers to shop early.
Marietta residents Jeff and Janet Campbell, who were among The Cook's Shop customers on Sunday, said they'll probably spend the same amount of money on Christmas 2013 as they have in previous years.
Holiday spending tips:
Plan ahead. Develop a realistic budget. Consider your income, subtract normal expenses, then add any savings to whatever cash is left over. If using a credit card, think about what you can afford to pay back in January.
Keep track of other costs. Don't forget postage, gift wrap, decorations, greeting cards, food, travel and charitable contributions.
Make a list. Keep your gift list limited to family and close friends and note how much to spend on each.
Shop early, spend carefully. Avoid shopping while rushed or under pressure which leads to overspending. Comparison shop online first. Make sure the purchase is within the budget you set.
Avoid traps like a spectacular sale on something you've wanted that can throw you off course. Stay strong, stick to your budget.
Use credit wisely. Limit the use of credit for holiday spending. If you use credit, select a card with a low interest rate and pick a target date when you can pay off holiday credit bills.
Save receipts. For potential returns and to keep track of what you've spent to compare to credit card billing statements.
Sources: Associated Press and American Bankers Association.
"There may be a lot of people who spend less this year, but I think what they do spend will be for gifts that carry more value," Jeff said.
In early October the National Retail Federation projected holiday sales would climb by 3.9 percent in November and December to $602.12 billion, higher than last year's 3.5 percent gain, according to the Associated Press.
But that forecast didn't account for the government shutdown that occurred between Oct. 1 and 17, and some retailers have expressed concern that the shutdown has impacted consumer confidence and will make customers more cautious about spending this holiday season.
Still, local retailers are optimistic.
"I think we'll have a nice holiday season, and a good turnout. We've been running a lot more ads than usual," said Russ Cogswell with Apex True Value in Marietta.
"We're not seeing a Christmas rush yet, but I think it's coming," he added.
In an effort to give customers as much time as possible to do their holiday shopping, Kmart stores will, for the first time, open at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving and remain open for 41 hours straight.
"There will be 'door-buster' specials Thursday and Friday, and our doors will already be open Black Friday so people won't have to stand outside waiting for the sales to begin," said Randy Hupp, assistant manager at the Marietta Kmart on Pike Street.
He said customers have been Christmas shopping since last month, using the store's year-round layaway program for a lot of purchases.
"They're buying a lot of toys, clothing and electronics," Hupp said. "And a lot of Christmas layaways started earlier this year."
Michael and Kristina Ball from St. Marys, W.Va., were checking Christmas items at the Marietta Kmart Sunday afternoon.
"We're trying to prepare by shopping a little earlier this year," Kristina said. "We started back in October."
The couple said they're not going to cut back much on spending this year.
"We're probably spending more because this year was a lot better than last year," Michael said.
According to a recent Associated Press report, Kmart competitor Wal-Mart, also open on Thanksgiving, is preparing for a challenging holiday season by working to keeping the right inventory in stock and being more aggressive about discounting across the store.
The company is also pushing its seasonal layaway program again this holiday shopping season, noting more than 1 million people have signed up for the holiday program.