Byrne's World of Wonder in Navan: customers have been doing their Christmas shopping since July

Christmas has come early this year, with shoppers across the country already beginning their festive buying even though summer has not yet ended.

Retailers have reported a huge increase in anxious parents signing up to in-store Christmas finance offers and buying toys and other presents, even though there are nearly four months to go before Santa Claus arrives.

Peter Minchin of Byrne's World of Wonder in Navan has said the toyshop has had to begin stocking up on festive goods already after shoppers began coming in as early as July to buy their Christmas gifts.

"Normally it would be at least September before we start seeing sales of this nature and even then it would be quite minimal. But we've now had to put our Christmas advertising into full swing, and put new tee-shirts on our staff already promoting our in-store Christmas club and toys."

According to Minchin, the amount being spent varies greatly from person to person, with some spending less than €50 and others spending "a few hundred".

And it is not just stocking fillers that are being sold: larger items such as basketball stands, pool tables and electric jeeps are also proving popular.

"This is by no means a small number of customers buying bits and pieces, it is a proper rush of spending that we expect to be consistent now right through until the end of December when customers may want to finish off and buy the most recent toys or products."

Minchin said he has never seen such an early influx of buyers.

"I was absolutely shocked to see this trend starting so early. Before parents had even stopped buying their back-to-school items, they were enquiring about the latest toys for the Christmas period to put away in advance."

There has been a huge increase in the numbers of people signing up for the shop's 'Christmas Club', which offers customers special finance offers on their festive purchases.

Hotels and venues across Ireland have also begun advertising their Christmas 2009 rates. Clontarf Castle Hotel in Dublin is now advertising special rates and party rooms for the 2009 festive season, as is the Ardilaun Hotel in Galway and dozens of other venues across the country.

What Shoppers Are Buying
Basketball stand €109.99
Ride-on tractor €79.99
Ride-on electric jeep €179.99
Pool table €229.99
Go-cart €74.99-€644.99
Rocking horse €69.99