A Santa Claus at a south suburban mall Friday signaled that the Christmas shopping season has officially begun.
"We were surprised that Santa was here, but we thought we couldn't pass up the opportunity. We thought we'd say hi," said Kerry Krol who was shopping Friday.
The Santa sighting made some shoppers anxious.
"This is kind of crazy and it's making me a little nervous because it makes me feel like I have to start Christmas shopping and I'm just not ready for it," said Kathy Perakis.
Whether shoppers are ready or not, Christmas does seem to come earlier and earlier each year and it is not just in the decorations. Sale signs were everywhere Friday at Orland Square mall and several big box and department stores have already announced pre-Black Friday sales. At Sears they're calling it 'Black Friday Now.'
"Consumers have been trained, they know, they can wait, they don't pay full price, and in order to get them shopping and get their attention, you have to get these attractive prices out much earlier than usual," said Bridget Sweeney, Crain's Chicago Business.
Consumers may not be giving gifts like it's 2006, but there are some surveys that suggest shoppers may be spending a little bit more this season and giving presents that people want rather than need.
"There is a strong sense that people are willing to spend on big-ticket, kind of high emotion items, items they wanted for a long time," said Sweeney.
The National Retail Federation has forecast a total retail sales growth of 2.3-percent for the November to December period this year. The survey found that consumers in general are slightly less concerned about the economy than a year ago - and apparently, from what ABC 7 found on Friday, more excited about shopping.
"Christmas approaches and then it's kind of hard to get in there and you can't find what you want. Getting it done early ahead of time is actually better off," said Donte Smith.
""I love it," said another shopper with a smile across her face.