Christmas comes 149 days early to Harrods in London


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Were the Birmingham glam rock band Wizzard still performing, they would have had little cause to malign the sad fact that it cannot be Christmas every day. They could have visited Harrods in London.

"Oh the weather outside is frightful. But the fire is so delightful," the mellow tones of Dean Martin informed shoppers on the second floor of Harrods yesterday. "And since we've no place to go, Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"

The weather outside was in fact 25C, with no clouds in the bright blue sky. A group of Korean tourists had not bothered to remove their sunglasses as they strolled through the store's new Christmas Wonderland, which opened yesterday, with a meagre 149 days before Yuletide.

Across town, Selfridges also launched its Christmas display, the earliest each stores has ever done so. Both stores said the decision was down to an increase in demand for Christmas souvenirs from international visitors, whose numbers peak in the summer.

The increasingly early arrival each summer of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is one reason for the untimely onset of Christmas. The month-long fast begins on 1 August this year, 11 days earlier than in 2010. Selfridges said it expected Middle Eastern tourists to visit earlier than normal. Though Muslims do not celebrate Christmas, many decorate their homes.

Though the increasingly early arrival of Christmas fever is a perennial complaint, at Harrods the holidaying schoolchildren in T-shirts, shorts and flip flops seem to be enjoying themselves as they dart between the plastic icicles hanging from a great white painted oak tree. But their mother wasn't.

"It is a bit daft isn't it, 150 days early," said Rhian Gutteridge, 39, from Ealing. "Who wants to spend half the year looking forward to Christmas? It's like wishing half your life away."

The ice cream was complimentary. The new "12 ice-creams of Christmas" collection includes mince pie, Christmas pudding with brandy butter, and indeed, Brussels sprouts.

Sitting on his shop mobility cart scooting past a curiously British themed tree, complete with teddy bear Beefeaters, bagpipers and Union Jack baubles, Joseph Emery 77, from Cranham in Essex was more philosophical about the whole thing. "I don't mind a bit of Christmas in July," he said. "I might not be around for the real thing."

On spotting the sign pointing to Christmas World, a passing pensioner was less generous: "Bloody hell they've got a nerve."

International visitors are up 40 per cent on last year. It's not just the sleigh bells that are ringing.

"Christmas is coming earlier each year. I can see a time when we offer a capsule Christmas collection throughout the year," said Geraldine James, the managing buyer for Selfridge's Christmas shop. "Tourists from China, Russia, Asia, India and the USA see choosing a beautiful Christmas decoration as the perfect memento from their trip."