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Target Is Taking on 'Christmas Creep,' Just in Time for Thanksgiving

The backlash has been brewing for decades.
Image: Customers shop in the Christmas section of a Target
Customers shop in the Christmas section of a Target in Porterville, Calif. in 2014.Chieko Hara / The Porterville Recorder via AP file

At the beginning of 1974's "It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown," the Peanuts gang moseys into a department store to buy decorated eggs. Much to their dismay, the kids discover the store is hawking Christmas gifts ... in April.

"Good grief," Charlie Brown says under a banner that reads: "ONLY 246 DAYS UNTIL XMAS."

More than 40 years later, "Christmas creep" is alive and well. (And no, Christmas creep is not a scary clown — but good guess!) Many retailers, looking to get a jump on sales, introduce Christmas-themed merchandise long before the official start of the holiday season.

But that could change. Revolution is in the air. Target is taking a stand.

Customers shop in the Christmas section of a Target in Porterville, Calif. in 2014.Chieko Hara / The Porterville Recorder via AP file

The retail giant, in response to feedback from customers, will ease up on Christmas signs and displays at the front entrances of their stores until after Thanksgiving, a Target spokeswoman said Tuesday. In the past, Target jumped into the Yuletide spirit right after Halloween.

"They want us to pause, and be really intentional and recognize Thanksgiving," Rick Gomez, the retailer's chief marketing officer, told the Associated Press about the store's customers. "What they don't want us to do is go right into Christmas. So, we are going to respect that."

The backlash has been brewing for decades.

"Nobody can make me ho-ho-ho until I'm good and ready," a St. Petersburg Times columnist wrote in October 1987, roughly around the time "Christmas creep" entered the popular lexicon. The term cropped up in dozens of newspaper articles and op-eds over the last three decades, frequently as a subject of derision.

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And in recent years, as the economic crisis forced some retailers to embrace more aggressive marketing strategies and stretch the limits of the holiday shopping season, the phenomenon has been mocked on social media.

Lisa Rowan, a writer for the financial website The Penny Hoarder, said she was heartened by the news from Target. She had apparently reached her breaking point five years ago, tweeting: "I love the Target dog, but I hate Christmas Creep." (Again, Christmas creep is a sales tactic and definitely not a scary clown.)

"I think it's a really smart move to take it one holiday at a time," Rowan said in a phone interview Tuesday. "People love fall and people love Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving is a more universal holiday in the U.S. that appeals to a wider swath of the population."

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Target, for the record, is not completely giving up on Christmas pageantry in November. Christmas-themed wares — ornaments, trinkets, the works — will still be positioned throughout stores starting in early November. "The change for this year is only to the signing we place at the front entrances of our stores," the Target spokeswoman said.

The change, minor as it may be, has the potential to become a political football. Many evangelical Christians have accused corporations of waging a "war on Christmas," and Starbucks stirred up controversy two years ago with a red cup that made no mention of Christmas.