HALIFAX -- It may feel early to talk about Christmas shopping, but many Maritime retailers say they, and their customers, are already planning how they’re going to get their shopping done during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It may be mid-October, but for many retailers, Christmas has come early.

“We heard from our customers that there was a need to get Christmas shopping out of the way a little earlier than typical, because people were a little bit fearful of the crowds that may develop,” says Debbie Morgan, co-owner of Thornbloom.

Morgan says she is also planning to host private shopping parties for the COVID-cautious shoppers.

“It’s going to be a little bit different this Christmas, but we’re trying to come up with ways to help with everybody’s comfort level,” says Morgan.

Many Maritime retailers say they, along with their customers, are already getting into the Christmas gift buying spirit, a good sign for many local businesses that are still doing all they can to survive.

“We’ve actually had a lot of people in doing some Christmas shopping, and they’re smart to do so,” says Darren Corning, owner of Brain Candy Toys.

Corning says that is because the second wave could affect global manufacturers, and how much product he can get for his shelves.

“Just because our guys have kept us safe in a nice bubble here, doesn’t mean that where their products are coming from could be a different story,” explains Corning.

Shoppers who send gifts by mail are also mindful of a recent message from Canada Post, encouraging Canadians to shop and ship early, and avoid any crunch.

“Christmas cards, gift wrapping a little bit earlier. I think they’re thinking about sending out early, because ethey don’t want to get stuck in the mail,” says franchise owner Peggy Fabrizi.

“We’ll probably ship down within the next month, I tend to wait too for Black Friday,” adds shopper Kerry Marie Hanlon.

Malls across the Maritimes are also working on their holiday plans, including whether or not Santa will be able to visit.

“We’ve been in touch with Santa up north, and we’re going to wait another few weeks to see how things go,” says Jill Mason, marketing manager at Sunnyside Mall.

Shopping centres throughout the region are preparing for what is always a critical time for any brick and mortar store, but this year will be a holiday shopping season like no other.

“There’s not going to be many people who want to go to malls,” says Dan Shaw, marketing professor at Dalhousie University Rowe School of Business.

Shaw expects 2020 to set online shopping records, and recommends that businesses wanting to compete should get creative.

“I would try to band together and do promotions with other small independent retailers, and really focus on selling that ‘Buy Local’ message,” says Shaw.

Shopping early, shopping local, something retailers here hope catches on.