Fancy turns to thoughts of … shopping?
With Easter three weeks later than last year, stores hope consumers will be in the mood to spend
If the economy won’t help retailers, maybe the bluebonnets will.
With Easter coming three weeks later than it did last year, retailers are hoping that spring will put people in a shopping mood.
Faced with a grim economy, they’ll take any potentially positive news they can get.
“Consumers often see Easter as the official kickoff to spring — the time to buy a new hat or dress for themselves or their children,” said Kathy Grannis at the National Retail Federation. “Many retailers will be promoting their fresh spring merchandise.”
Easter is traditionally a time to buy “dressy dresses, suits, gifts, flowers and candy and for taking the family out for a meal,” said Howard Davidowitz, a national retail consulting and investment banking firm in New York City, but it won’t be happening as much this year, he said.
Such seasonal business “will not vanish, but it will be down 25 to 30 percent” this year over last, he predicted.
Last Christmas season, sales were down only about 4 percent over last year, he noted, but that is because Christmas holiday spending is “more mandatory” while Easter has “less urgency.”
A National Retail Federation survey conducted March 3-10 found that consumers are planning to cut back on Easter-related spending. They will spend $12.7 billion on the holiday, according to the NRF, down from $14.5 billion last year.
Elementary school teacher Louisa Savarese was in the Easter candy aisles at the Super Target on South Main, picking out Easter baskets, decorations and eggs.
She was buying fewer of those items this year, she said, but not because of the economy.
“I’m sizing down to be less wasteful,” Savarese said.
Target’s Easter candy, toys and decorations are selling briskly, said Barry Moseley, a manager at the Super Target on South Main.
The store has nine aisles of Easter merchandise, most of it candy, and Moseley said that he expected to sell all of the candy by Easter.
Retailers received what some analysts view as relatively good news Thursday when the International Council of Shopping Centers released its March sales numbers showing a decrease of 2.1 percent for the month.
Adjusted for the calendar shift, which included one less Saturday and no Easter in March, monthly sales were actually up 1 percent, said ICSC spokesman Malachy Kavanagh.
“In context, the March numbers are pretty good,” said Jeff Green of Jeff Green Partners, a San
Francisco-based retail feasibility consulting firm. “You’re seeing a slower sales decline than we’ve seen in the past six to eight months.”
But Erin Armendinger, managing director of the Baker Retailing Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, was less optimistic.
“I don’t think this means we’re coming out of this,” said Armendinger, in reference to how the March sales numbers reflect on the recession. “It’s more like things aren’t getting any worse.”
Retail store traffic is expected to decline about 13 percent in the second quarter, which is about the same as it did in the first, according to a ShopperTrak study, Bloomberg News reported.
Traditionally, the second quarter gets a boost in shopping traffic from Easter and Mother’s Day.
Houston’s retail market is in relatively better shape than the nation’s, but “we’re definitely slowing down,” said Ron Welch, an economist at the Institute for Regional Forecasting at the University of Houston.
Local consumers are cautious, Welch said, particularly when it comes to buying durable goods.