Christmas comes but once a year -- in August

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - It must seem to some that Christmas comes earlier and earlier each year, and for shoppers in one London store that was certainly true this week.

A customer browses in Selfridges' Christmas shop as it opens for business 145 days ahead of Christmas Day in central London, August 2, 2010. Selfridges have opened their Christmas shop after strong sales in Christmas merchandise from visiting tourists last summer. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

Selfridge’s in Oxford Street has opened its Christmas shop, displaying a seasonal array of baubles, festive ornaments, Christmas trees and tinsel -- with more than 140 days to go until Dec. 25,.

Geraldine James, the store’s Christmas decorations buyer, made the decision to open six days earlier than last year to cash in on summer tourists wanting festive souvenirs.

“Here we are in the middle of the department and it is absolutely buzzing, so the customers are obviously responding,” she told Reuters Television.

“The reason we opened a little bit earlier than last year is because the week we opened last year we were 50 percent up on the previous year, so it’s the customer saying to us ‘Actually we really like this and yes, we will buy things and yes we will respond’,” she said.

Selfridge’s will not reveal sales figures, but did say that sales of Christmas decorations last August accounted for five percent of all their Christmas sales.

The upmarket store has 25,000 different lines of Christmas decorations. Its best-selling item is a Union Jack bauble of hand-blown and decorated glass.

London and British-themed baubles were a big attraction for tourists keen to take a memento home to remind themselves of their summer holiday.

For other visitors, Christmas is a magical time that’s welcome any time of the year.

“Can’t resist. Can’t resist buying,” Scottish tourist Mary Buchanan said.

With the strains of “White Christmas” sounding out over the basement level Christmas shop, other customers passing by on their way to other departments were bemused.

“I think Christmas is such a special time. I think something like this, where it is open too early, it can lose that sense of being a very important special occasion,” said Kerry White, a tourist from Australia.

Selfridge’s isn’t the only store in London to sell Christmas items at the height of summer. Harrods also opens its Christmas department in August and the toy store Hamleys has already unveiled its list of what will be the hot toys this year.

“It’s mainly something that retailers who have a lot of overseas visitors who won’t be back between now and Christmas do,” said Richard Dodd, spokesman for the British Retail Consortium.

“I don’t think people need fear that there is any new precedent being set here. For most people they won’t be seeing Christmas start to appear for quite some time yet.”