It’s a sunny August day, hot enough for shorts and a T-shirt. I’m shopping for dinner (looking for corn-on-the-cob and popsicles — summer necessities) and some home decor. So what’s on the shelves?
Pumpkin spice coffee, salted caramel apple cider, pumpkin cupcakes, jack-o-lanterns, a Thanksgiving doormat … and Christmas decorations.
In mid-August. In *summer.* Pump. The. Brakes.
What’s the deal?
The National Retail Federation, which represents stores (including home goods stores and grocery stores) notes that, yes, retailers start shifting to Halloween and holiday merchandise in August, Ana Serafin Smith, the federation’s senior director of media relations, said via email.
“Retailers are only putting up as much and little of seasonal items pending on when consumers want them,” she said. “There are some consumers that are planners and take advantage of having enough lead time to buy their favorite Halloween items, décor and costumes — especially if they want the [cream] of the crop, they need to get into these stores earlier than later. Same thing goes to holiday shopping — consumers are already budgeting for the long list of people they are buying gifts for and slowly checking off each item on the list so they can have their Christmas tree filled with gifts for everybody.”
So retailers are trying to make money and make customers happy. Makes sense. But Christmas trees in August? It’s practically Christmas in July. And it’s arguably even too early for Thanksgiving and Halloween.
Meanwhile, Iron City Brewing offered samples of Block House Pumpkin Ale on Aug. 5. That’s clearly still Shandy season.
Bierport in Lawrenceville started promoting Oktoberfest and fall brews Aug. 14.
The bottle shop/pub sells fall beers as soon they come in from wholesalers, because “there’s no sense in waiting,” manager Deena Hower said. This year, Bierport started getting fall beers this month, she said, whereas last year, autumn brews showed up in July, and people were “pumpkin-ed out by Halloween.”
They know people have a lot of feelings about it: “There’s the people that can’t wait for it, and there’s the people who want nothing to do with it,” Hower said.
Bierport’s serving one pumpkin brew on draft currently, a sour called Terrapin Cranberry Pumpkinfest, and yes, people are into it. A customer just ordered one last night. One patron even asked about pumpkin beers earlier this month, before they showed up in the store, she said.
“We kept thinking like when is the right time,” Hower said. “The worst thing that a store can do is have leftover seasonal beer.”
For those still hanging on to warmer weather, there are plenty of summer thirst quenchers on the shelves, too.
“It’s so hot that it’s hard to imagine drinking something that tastes like a chai latte, to me,” Hower said.
At Giant Eagle grocery stores throughout the area, pumpkin-flavored coffee, seasonal ciders, pumpkin cupcakes and Halloween-themed cookies are on the shelves.
Also spotted at Hallmark in Monroeville Mall: A wide selection of Halloween decorations (including a pair of sunglass-wearing ghosts with the phrase “We are the Boos Brothers,” which is adorable even in August, to be fair).
And then, there’s a display of the decorative turkeys and the Thanksgiving doormat “Be Great-ful” (intentional misspelling is never cute, especially when it’s not even in season).
But it gets worse. Around the next corner, lurking in the shadow of fluorescent lights, stands … Santa himself. Hitch a ride on your sleigh back to the North Pole, sir, and do not come back until December.
At the nearby At Home store in Monroeville, artificial trees line the shelves. There are orange and copper-colored ones, so the argument could be made that these are for the fall (if decorating a fake fir in August is your thing).
But then, sprouting on the next rack: These twinkly green unmistakably wintry trees.
Some 40 percent of shoppers start their holiday shopping before Halloween. Apparently that’s … now.
Starbucks has not yet revealed its debut date for the Pumpkin Spice Latte, but you can practically smell the sugary confection in the air. Dunkin’ Donuts will bring back its version of the drink Aug. 28, Fortune reported.
This isn’t to throw shade on fall itself. Leaves showing off, PSLs, flannel, not dripping with sweat on the walk to work — it’s all lovely.
But Pittsburgh turns into a frozen hellscape in the winter, and fall is the harbinger. So when all your Facebook friends are complaining about the frigid temperatures this winter, scroll back on their timeline and remind them of their excited mid-summer posts about “sweater weather.”
In the meantime, soak up the last few weeks of summer in Pittsburgh.
By all means: Frolic in pumpkin patches. Bake pumpkin pies. Wear flannel. Buy ceramic Santas. Just wait until Sept. 22.