Holiday shopping in full swing in the Central Valley

11/10/2013 6:58 PM

11/10/2013 11:36 PM

Santa’s settled in at the mall. Toy catalogs arrived in the mail and newspapers a week or more ago. Saturday’s Modesto Bee listed no less than 10 weekend holiday craft fairs and bazaars, more than two weeks before Thanksgiving, and 15 more such events in coming weeks.

Several retail anchors have announced Black Thursday – meaning Thanksgiving – shopping hours. A local nursery is advertising poinsettias and a cosmetic laser clinic already staged a holiday open house.

Holiday shopping season, traditionally held off until late November, knows no limitations these days.

“I’m done. Been done,” said Trisha McGowen, 32, of Turlock, holding a used pink Barbie bicycle with training wheels at Sunday’s Country Folk Art Craft Show at the Stanislaus County Fairground in Turlock. “All these beautiful Christmas decorations, and I come away with a $10 bike.”

Shelly Lindegren, 31, confirmed that her secret Christmas shelf at home in Turlock already holds a shirt, lotions and other items.

“She’ll start in July,” said her husband, Ron, who gave up a 49ers game to haul the rocking chair and bear his wife bought after haggling with vendors. “Actually, she never really stops,” he added.

Chip, a Stockton crafter who didn’t want to give his last name, said his first Christmas fair every year starts in July in San Juan Bautista, followed by Castro Valley in August and Pacifica and Lodi in September. Sales from the Turlock show are second only to one in a Sparks casino on Thanksgiving weekend, he said.

The National Retail Federation predicts holiday spending will rise 3.9 percent this year, to $602.1 billion. That’s “solid growth,” said federation president and CEO Matthew Shay, and it’s higher than last year’s growth and higher than the 10-year average increase.

Predictions by other organizations are a bit more Grinch-like. Morgan Stanley expects clothing sales during the fourth quarter to be the worst since 2008.

The government shutdown shook shoppers’ confidence in the economy, but it hasn’t affected spending, and the retail federation hasn’t changed its forecast, said NRF spokeswoman Kathy Grannis.

Nothing could keep Cathy Meehan, 59, from making her annual trip to Turlock from Watsonville, she said.

The same goes for Kirk Machado, 54, although the drive from his Hilmar home is much shorter. He normally doesn’t ramp up holiday shopping before Thanksgiving weekend, but he said he enjoys wandering among stalls before then.

Plenty of shoppers never leave home, preferring to take advantage of Internet deals and increasingly common free shipping offers.

Others would not be caught dead browsing before Black Friday. Various Facebook pages invite people to solemnly pledge that they will not give in to the temptation to shop on Thanksgiving Day.

That’s a promise that Sheryl Christensen technically could make, as she intends to finish before then.

Last year, Christensen, 62, of Madera, set a goal to be done with Christmas shopping, including gift wrapping, before Thanksgiving, and enjoyed a calm December so much that she’ll never look back. “It’s so much more relaxing,” she said Sunday, clutching a wrought-iron angel garden trellis that caught her eye at the Turlock show.

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