Sweet deal for supermarkets as they stock up on Christmas treats months before big day
The countdown is on - not for the kids going back to school, but for the Christmas period.
Just as schools across Northern Ireland get ready to open their doors this week, festive products have already been popping up on supermarket shelves.
Tesco has again vexed some shoppers by welcoming the festive season four months ahead of Christmas Day.
The supermarket chain is selling 660g tubs of Celebrations, Cadbury Heroes and Quality Street in snowy packaging on special offer for just £4.
Shoppers have been greeted by towers of the tubs placed near the entrance in a range of selected outlets.
The deal was spotted by customers in the past fortnight and has already attracted thousands of likes, shares and comments online.
Anna Marie Hassard from Enniskillen said: "Parents are busy trying to get children ready for back to school and they will be feeling extra pressure when they see Christmas cards and sweets already on display.
"We should at least get Halloween over and done with before we even start thinking about that."
Jean Lyle from Belfast wrote on Facebook: "Was in Tesco today and the Christmas sweets are in.
"Probably selection boxes next and I haven't had my summer holiday yet!"
Discount retailer B&M is also stocking Christmas goodies including Cadbury Mini Snow Balls, Oreo Biscuit Assortment boxes and white chocolate Snowy Fingers.
Our images show, however, that sweet treats are not the only festive items hitting the shelves. Christmas cards have been spotted at many branches of The Card Factory.
While most people believe it is too early to start thinking about Christmas, well-known Ballymena newsagent Eugene Diamond said some retailers have good reason to be prepared.
Mr Diamond - who prides himself on being the first person in Ireland to stock Creme Eggs in his Broughshane Street shop each year - said: "There's absolutely nothing that says Christmas more than those tubs of sweets on display and it has really got people wound up.
"Personally I think it's a bit much but retailers nowadays are trying to get as much as they can so it's hard to criticise them when it's such a tough market out there."
But the popular businessman says he won't be stocking up on festive treats just yet.
"If it works for Tesco then all well and good but it's not something that I would be wanting to do at this time of year," he added.
"I have been selling Christmas confectionery for 40 years now and I've never had it on sale before mid-November.
"I remember when Christmas only lasted for two days but now it has lost its whole meaning because everything starts so early.
"It's now hard to differentiate between the seasons and it means that children will be looking for Santa already."
Meanwhile, restaurants and hotels have been taking bookings for Christmas parties and December 25 for several weeks.
The dates for the ever-popular Belfast Christmas Market at City Hall have also been revealed.
It will run from Saturday, November 16 to Sunday, December 22, opening at 10am on the first day and shutting shop at 6pm on the final day.
Belfast's Christmas lights will be switched on the same day as the market opens.
Last month, Selfridges in London unveiled its Christmas shop for those wanting some wintry cheer amid the heatwave.
The department store proudly claimed that it was again the first in the world to open its Christmas section on July 29, a record 149 days ahead of the big day.
Luxury retailer Brown Thomas also got into the festive spirit, with shocked customers spotting trees and decorations in its Dublin, Cork and Limerick stores on August 15 - a full 131 days before the holiday.