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In some places, there’s no rush to deck the halls

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At Nordstrom, Christmas comes just once a year. So does Thanksgiving.

The department-store chain hasn't gotten caught up in the rush to hang lights and garland in its stores for the winter holidays. Instead, Nordstrom has a policy that holiday decorations stay boxed up until the Thanksgiving turkey is eaten.

"We have a 100-year tradition of waiting to unveil our holiday decorations until after Thanksgiving," said John Bailey, a Nordstrom spokesman. "It's a tradition that works for us. We believe in celebrating each holiday in its entirety before moving on to the next one."

Now, the 104-year-old store is a bastion of holiday-less decor in area shopping malls that have been knee-deep in fake snow and tinsel since mid-October.

Retailers began their holiday sales -- including holiday decorations -- earlier this year to try to beat high winter heating bills, which are expected to keep shoppers on a tight shopping budget this year.

The Nordstrom stores have signs telling customers of plans to decorate before the stores open Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.

"Enjoy the day as we will -- with our family and friends. Then, when Friday, November 25 rolls around, feel free to stop by for a bit of good cheer," the sign reads.

Some of Nordstrom's customers like the policy.

"Thank goodness as least one store got it right," said Loretta Kelly, 24, a Chicago native in the Pentagon City Nordstrom store yesterday while visiting Washington on business. "Everyone has 'Jingle Bell' this and 'Jingle Bell' that."

Others say Thanksgiving is ignored when stores decorate too early.

"It's just overdone," said Louis Ziegler, 68, while waiting for his wife to finish shopping.

Still, some think the festive decor is appropriate.

"It gets more people into Christmas," said Donnie Sanders, 20, as he walked through Nordstrom yesterday.

According to a National Retail Federation study, about 40 percent of consumers start their holiday shopping before Halloween, picking up decorations, greeting cards and gifts.

"Retailers really need to walk that line between promoting for the holiday for that 40 percent and customers who don't want to see anything before Thanksgiving," said Scott Krugman, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation, a Washington trade group.

Wal-Mart led the push this year to begin holiday sales before the traditional start of the shopping season, publicizing sales two weeks ahead of time.

Nordstrom's policy doesn't seem to hurt sales, though.

"I don't think they're penalized whatsoever for decorating late. If anything, people look at it as a more traditional setup," said Jeff Stinson, a retail analyst with FTN MidWest Research in Cleveland. "Because their customers are more affluent, it makes less of a difference for them."

Last week, Nordstrom announced third-quarter sales rose 8 percent to $1.67 billion, compared with $1.54 billion a year ago. Sales at stores open at least a year, an important measure for retailers, rose 5.9 percent.

Last year, same-store sales rose 7.2 percent.

"What we've seen from them in the third quarter this year and the fourth quarter the last few years, they've been able to successfully execute that strategy," Mr. Stinson said. "It's a very good strategy for them."

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