Christmas coming early at Yokota
September 6, 2003
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Something’s startling Four Seasons customers.
Shopping in shorts and sandals, they’re surprised to bump into rows of artificial Christmas trees and shelves decked with Santa dolls, fake poinsettias and ornate tree skirts.
“It was a surprise when I walked in,” shopper Leslie Cole said. “It does seem a bit early.”
Cole, a military spouse at Yokota, said she probably won’t start thinking about holiday shopping until Thanksgiving.
At the base’s multipurpose store, outdoor lawn furniture disappeared and holiday merchandise emerged even before grills turned cold at Labor Day weekend barbecues.
Four Seasons Assistant Manager Grizelle Fivecoats said the store typically rolls out its holiday inventory in mid- to late-September.
But Christmas season is coming early this year.
The trees were out before Labor Day to give customers more opportunity to shop ahead and to coincide with the annual “grand opening” of Toy Land, Fivecoats said.
On Saturday, all Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores similar to Four Seasons will unveil Toy Land, a section of each store where shelves are stocked with toys for the upcoming holiday season, Fivecoats said.
Select toys will be on sale at Four Seasons from Saturday through Friday, and customers may purchase toys on a 180-day layaway plan, free of charge, during that period, Fivecoats said.
There also will be coloring contests, prize giveaways, balloons and a clown at the store this weekend.
And while supplies last, free toy soldier bears go to customers who spend $100 or more.
“We have a lot of toys,” Fivecoats said Thursday. “Where the barbecue grills are, we’ll put toys. And outside, we’ll have big toys, like the Jeep Wranglers and bikes.”
Barbie dolls and battery-powered cars may put children in the holiday spirit, but adults may be a harder sell.
“I’d rather see Halloween than Christmas,” Yokota civilian employee Keith Wynn said Thursday. “It is kind of early, but it depends on the person. I’ve seen Christmas in July, too.”
Some customers Thursday said they were pleased to have the chance to start shopping for the holidays this soon.
“It’s a good idea, you know, the sooner, the better, to start early,” spouse Flor Deoleo said.
Fivecoats encouraged shoppers to do just that: “Get ahead of the game and get the stuff you need.”
AAFES is doing the same.
Last year, Four Seasons ran out of Christmas trees, lights and stands for natural trees during the holidays, Fivecoats said. The store is trying to avoid that problem this year by stocking up on more merchandise earlier.
Since it takes four to eight weeks to ship goods from AAFES’ warehouse on the West Coast, Four Seasons wants to ensure there’s time to reorder supplies that run low or that shoppers may see in other stores.
“I think we’re one of the first ones to get our Christmas stuff out,” Fivecoats said. “Customers are surprised, but they’re buying.”
Four Seasons is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.