I guess the idea that they'll try to rush it out for Christmas is likely.
It only seems
rushed to us but obviously there has been a lot going on behind the scenes we weren't privy to and this has in some form at least been part of the masterplan all along. Perhaps with how successful they have been they maybe had originally planned to take a break after Christmas last year but the opportunity of the summer shows came up and they took that which means a 9 month gap for Claire has turned into a 6 week summer holiday and then back at it.
I think an October/November release is potentially a wise move especially if chart position is largely irrelevant. Yes, there is a lot of (more "popular") competition out there album-wise at Christmas but people (ie casuals) are more open to spending money even on albums at Christmas. Point being that more competition means a likely much poorer chart position but this will be offset by potentially a lot more sales in the lucrative Christmas Q4 than getting a Top 20 in February with 5,678 sales (see what I did there). So, 14,000 sales and a chart position of 35 is probably a better aim.
Also, in some ways for this project Claire is starting from scratch so has an opportunity (especially if the music is good) to win over some new casuals as she is not constrained to the Steps brand, image or even style of music.