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Holiday Jeer

Premature holiday spirit can put customers in grinch mode.

You won't find bright-colored lights and giant Santas in Diane Robinson's Silly Goose Toy Store in October. In fact, the Essex, Massachusetts, shop doesn't display its low-key holiday decorations until a couple of weeks after Halloween, bucking the trend among many retailers to haul out the holly right after back-to-school season.

"I always hated that whole Christmas-in-your-face feeling starting in September," says Robinson, 48. "We don't decorate until six weeks before Christmas." Getting too early a start on decorating your store for the holidays can backfire, says Donna Geary, founder of Impact Visual Merchandising in Peterborough, Ontario. Geary advises her clients to wait until after Halloween to put up the December décor.

"Customers aren't looking for holiday décor in October," says Geary. "It smacks of greed."

But there is a loophole: Customers don't seem to be bothered by early holiday direct mail and e-mail marketing. To effectively extend your holiday selling season, focus your efforts on external promotions, such as planning a postcard blitz about an upcoming holiday-themed event, sending out holiday wish-list requests to key customers that can be returned and kept on file, or sending a special offer by e-mail.

Gwen Moran is co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans.

This story appears in the October 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »