Albany-- Only 47 days until Christmas and already stores have holiday displays.
They're getting ready for what they hope will be strong retail sales.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, "We spend all year getting ready for Christmas," says Honey Bolton at Place on the Pointe.
For the 20th year, Place on the Pointe is a virtual holiday wonderland and Christmas sales have already started. Bolton says, "Christmas is a huge chunk of our year, because it spans so long now, it starts in August and it goes to December so it takes up half the year getting ready for it and getting it going."
"On average, one-third of the sales takes place now, outside of the automobile industry, so it is a pretty big and important number," says Darton College economist Amit Singh.
Singh says local job growth will help sales this season, but those pesky gas prices could hurt, "We have a couple of things on downside, we have a much higher oil price which is hurting low income people, not as much high income people."
So, higher end stores are expected to do well. Paw Prints and Pineapples store owner Stephanie Drawdy describes the holiday season as, "It is make it or break it."
The sophomore store owner is getting ready for her second Christmas season, "Hopefully it will be double, I hope, because retail is the busiest part of the year, so I am looking for something better this year."
Stores are betting on strong sales, as the 2004 shopping season comes into focus.
Retail sales nationally are expected to grow by 4.5% compared to last holiday season and South Georgia should keep pace.