03/28/2008 02:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Retailers Quietly Begin Furtive Holiday Shopping Season

Eager to expand the holiday shopping season without provoking consumers, retailers are experimenting with a novel approach: earlier-than-ever advertising that deliberately plays down the tinsel and holly.

Shattering records for an early start, Wal-Mart is cutting prices on toys in mid-October, but the company is not calling it a holiday sale. L. L. Bean has started advertising free shipping -- but it is shying away from the H word. And Toys "R" Us is marketing a temporary store in Manhattan, but consumers have to study ads to find the name: Holiday Express.

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