Despite the bad economic news, there’s a glimmer of hope for retailers this Easter. It falls in April, which means, if the Old Farmer’s Almanac is right, that the weather, at least in the United States and Canada, will be unseasonably warm and people may be spurred to buy flowers, chocolate eggs and bunnies, cards, clothes for the kids and gifts of all kinds. A cold Easter stops buyers – well – cold and makes retailers wring their hands. Since it’s one of the biggest buying events of the year, says the National Retail Foundation (nrf.com), even small signs that business may pick up will buoy retailers’ flagging spirits. They have, half jokingly, suggested they need a bailout.
Nowhere Near St Patrick’s Day
It’s also good news that it falls nowhere near St Patrick’s Day. Last year there were worries that the latter was on the Monday before Easter which meant that retailers selling seasonal items had to figure out how to make room on their shelves for Easter bunnies at the same time they were selling things decorated with shamrocks. It was a huge problem because each special day draws a completely different demographic.
Sales Are Down
Despite the warm weather, mothers may forgo buying new outfits for themselves but will probably buy nice clothes for the kids. Unfortunately, all this abstinence on the part of women shoppers is taking its toll on many stores. The Gap’s sales are down by 23 percent, Old Navy 34, J C Penney 16.4, Talbots 24, Nordstrom 11.4 and Kohl’s 13.4.
A Damper On Hat Buying
Sadly, the recession is going to put a damper on hat buying. While most people still see the Queen as the world’s most dedicated hat wearer, head coverings have been making a comeback everywhere over the past few years and extravagant Easter bonnets, somehow, herald spring. However, in these recessionary times parades will most likely feature made over versions of last year’s models. The Knoxville Sentinel has been busily teaching the ins and outs of doing it. The idea of women sitting assiduously trimming their Easter bonnets, evokes Jane Austin’s heroines working on theirs with ribbons.
Hats Were Big Business
Looking at a piece in the March 30 1890 issue of the New York Times, it’s striking to see what a difference 178 years makes in the story of hats. Back then, hundreds of milliners and trimmings suppliers fed a huge market of women who set immense store by what they wore on their heads. Mind you, the writer wasn’t impressed by the year’s crop. “Black flowers are one of the season’s fads,” she sniffed, “spring millinery is a pathless, trackless desert barren of new ideas. Millinery has become effete – the eye is satiated to weariness.” She also didn’t like the fact that everyone was wearing ‘opera bonnets’. Hats were big business for the makers and suppliers of Milan straw, artificial flowers and ostrich feathers.
Chocolate Easter Egg Battle
The United Kingdom is gearing up for a chocolate Easter egg battle between two major food chains says the Guardian’s Julia Finch. Tesco has bought up millions of chocolate eggs intended for the now defunct Woolworths chain and plans to sell them at half the price of last year’s offerings. Meanwhile in the other corner, Asda snarls it won’t be beaten. Shoppers buy some 80 million boxed chocolate eggs every Easter, leading to a total bill of more than 200 million pounds or $400 million although prices have been falling since 2000 because supermarkets use them as loss leaders. Last year, one former supermarket executive huffed that that they were “putting ego ahead of business sense”.
Two Oceans Marathon In Cape Town
After all this talk of chocolate, it’s time to turn to the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town (twooceansmarathon.org.za), an Easter tradition. Billed as the “most beautiful in the world, it draws participants from everywhere. They spend millions on hotels, meals, shopping and visits to the accompanying expo, making it a large money earner for the city and surrounding area. Retailers there will be pleased.
Palestinian And Israel Businesses Together
The economic meltdown, coupled with the need for Easter visits from Christian pilgrims who bring in $8 to $10 million, has brought Palestinian and Israeli businesses together in an effort to allay fears and stop Easter tourism dwindling further.
A Major Income Earner
In many places, Easter is looked upon as a major income earner and various conditions are combining to make it better than expected during this miserable economic downturn. Guarded optimism is possible.