Retailers hope Easter sales will shake off winter doldrums 

The Easter Bunny is a welcome sight for retailers hoping to shake off winter blues. One of the largest holiday spends of the year, Easter shopping is expected to top $15.8 billion this year, according the National Retail Federation.

That said, consumers won’t indulge themselves for this first holiday of spring. According to NRF's Easter spending survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the average American celebrating the holiday will spend an average of $137.46 on apparel, food, candy, gifts and more, slightly less than the $145.13 spent last year. 

“The winter doldrums left consumers with a lot of pent-up demand, and though many Americans may take a cautious approach to spending on Easter items this year, retailers are anticipating that warmer weather will easily put consumers in the mood to buy bright clothes, holiday decorations and more,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in the statement.

He said retailers look forward to increased customer traffic in stores and online, and will roll out promotions on everything from garden supplies and patio sets to apparel and grocery items as they help their customers prepare for the holiday.

The study also showed 3% fewer Americans plan to celebrate this year. But, those families planning a Sunday Easter dinner or brunch out will spend an average of $43 on the meal, which should result in $5 billion in aggregate sales.

Easter traditionally marks the shift into spring and boosts apparel sales in the process. Consumers are expected to dole out $2.6 billion in new Easter clothes for their kids.

Additionally, nine in 10 consumers celebrating will stock up on Easter candy, spending $2.2 billion on their children’s favorite sweet treats. Families also will spend on gifts ($2.4 billion), flowers ($1.1 billion) and decorations ($1.1 billion).

Pam Goodfellow, director at Prosper Insights, said many Americans look forward the holiday, but they don’t plan to break the bank to celebrate. The survey found consumers are trimming back spending on food, clothes and gifts, compared to last year.

Ken Perkins of Retail Metrics Inc., said March same-store retail sales rose 3.5% from a year earlier, beating expectations for a 2.5%. But when stripping out a surprisingly high 5% sales upswing at Costco, which tends to close on Easter, overall retail sales increased just 1.6%.

Because of the the slow start to the spring selling season, “April results take on added meaning this year,” Perkins noted in his report.

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He said retailers are making strong marketing pushes to woo consumers into their stores or virtual sites hoping to rebound from a long winter season.

Retailers like Wal-Mart have aggressively marketed with e-mail “Baskets of Savings” blasts to consumers for several weeks. Apparel stores Belk and Old Navy have been sending daily online coupons for the past three weeks on deals for dresses, shoes and other spring clothing. J.C Penney, Kohl’s have been all over social media touting Easter values.

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