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'Christmas creep' already showing up in stores, and it's still September

The kids have just gotten back to school, and stores already want to talk about the holidays.

The "Christmas creep" has started, and whether we like it or not, be prepared to be inundated with new promotions — from layaway to free shipping — from big box stores and online sources.

The countdown to the holidays started earlier this year with Amazon's Prime Day in July, where the online retailer offered Black Friday-type deals for 24 hours only to its Prime members worldwide. Walmart launched a similar sale on its e-commerce site the same day.

In August, Walmart was the first to release its list of "top toys" for the 2015 holiday season. Then it was Target, and Toys "R" Us and now Kmart.

Despite the challenges brick-and-mortar stores face today — like technology adoption and consumers' ability to buy anything from anywhere — early forecasts for the shopping season seem optimistic, but modest. Last year, holiday retail sales increased by 4 percent nationwide, according to the National Retail Federation.

Toys "R" Us lowers minimum fee for free shipping

Toys "R" Us has lowered its free shipping minimum fee for online orders from $49 to $19 for the upcoming holiday shopping season. All orders placed at toysrus.com and babiesrus.com are eligible for the new reduced fee. Toys "R" Us, which sells children's toys and educational merchandise, offers free delivery on online orders through free store pickup services. Babies "R" Us offers free shipping on baby gear items with no minimum purchase required.

B of A adds tech services to mobile banking platform

Bank of America is adding tools like fingerprint sign-in capabilities to its online and mobile banking services for customers.

Customers can use their fingerprints and Touch ID services to log in from Android, iPhone and iPad devices with the bank's mobile app. Bank of America customers also can access accounts via the Apple Watch.

AT&T shops open in Best Buy stores in Tampa

Wireless provider AT&T will open five shops within Best Buy big box stores this year as a way to reach more customers during the holiday season. The AT&T stores will open before the end of the year at: 6600 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg; 1725 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; 12675 Citrus Park Drive, Tampa; 116 Grand Regency Blvd., Brandon; 21415 U.S. Highway 19 N, Clearwater. AT&T merchandise, like smartphones, tablets and car plug-ins, will be offered for sale.

Ashley Nation opens in Westfield Citrus Park

Ashley Nation, a lingerie and swimwear company based in Tampa, will open its first store inside Westfield Citrus Park mall Oct. 1.

The store will sell affordable lingerie and swimwear for women. A bra and underwear set sells for $32 to $35.

Ashley Nation plans to open three more stores, two of them in Westfield malls, in the Tampa market in the next year.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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