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SOUTHLAND BUSINESS

In Pasadena, First Day of Christmas Beats Labor Day

September 06, 1987|MARTHA GROVES

It begins.

Port O' Call Pasadena, a five-store chain selling antiques, clothing and gifts, started cranking up the Christmas spirit in late August by displaying dozens of limited-edition carolers.

Susan De Land, who selects Christmas merchandise for the retailer, maintains that customers clamored for an early chance at the quaint, open-mouthed figures. Handmade by a family in Chalfont, Pa., they have developed an avid following, she said.

"The carolers have become so collectible," De Land explained. "People want to have first shot."

Until three years ago, Port O' Call waited until late September or early October to put out Christmas items. But it bowed to shoppers' wishes that they get a head start on ordering carolers and other seasonal items such as ornaments and needlepoint Christmas stockings that Port O' Call sends elsewhere to be inscribed.

At invitation-only "preview parties" this year, De Land said, customers saw slides of new caroling characters and made purchases, at $42.50 or $44.50 each. Business is up three times over last year's, a response that amazes even De Land herself.

"Customers are getting excited about the fact that they're getting an early buy on it," she said. "People came in with photos of what they already had. They were really organized."

De Land acknowledged that the timing might aggravate some, but Port O' Call's upscale clientele isn't complaining about the premature exposure to a bit of Yuletide.

"If we had opened our store and filled it with Christmas merchandise, I think they would be outraged," she said. "But customers appreciate the fact that we're giving them a little lead time."

Can Thanksgiving turkeys be far behind?

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