Why the Easter bunny is a retail beast

Easter sales aren't as widespread as those of the winter holidays, but they give shoppers the sugar high they need to snap out of their cold spell.

By TheStreet Staff Mar 24, 2011 12:11PM

TheStreetBy Jason Notte, TheStreet


The Easter bunny may look fluffy and cute, but retailers know there's a lot of consumer-toned muscle beneath that fuzzy exterior.


Easter may not have the profile of other holidays, but the bunny is a retail beast. Easter brought in more than $14 billion last year, accounting for 6.1% of all holiday spending, according to IBISWorld. That  makes it fifth among its holiday cohorts, falling behind the winter holidays (59.2%), Thanksgiving (13.4%), Valentine's Day (7.5%) and Mother's Day (6.5%).


Last year, the 79.6% of Americans who celebrated Easter spent an average of $118.60. Most of that spending went into Easter baskets as food ($37.45), gifts ($18.16) and candy ($17.29). For such companies as Tootsie Roll (TR), Hershey's (HSY) and Kraft (KFT) -- which is on its second year of making Cadbury Creme Eggs -- Easter is a $1.9 billion basket of goodies, with candy sales second only to Halloween's $2 billion, according to the National Confectioners Association.


"Easter is obviously a religious holiday, but many retailers have discovered that Americans consider Easter the official kickoff to spring," says Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. "We've found that millions of Americans head out every spring to buy not only Easter-related products but . . . new spring apparel."

While roughly 65% of Americans got their chocolate, jelly beans and decorations at discount stores such as Wal-Mart (WMT), Target (TGT), Kmart (SHLD), Kohls (KSS) and Fred Meyer (KRO) last year, they were putting a lot more into the cart than just holiday treats. The NRF says roughly 39.2% of Americans spent an average of $19 on Easter apparel last year, fueling sales when there is seemingly little incentive to do so.


"It's more about promoting new lines through small discounts or events than big blowout sales like a post-holiday clearance," says IBISWorld analyst Nikoleta Panteva. "Because the prices are higher than during post-holiday sales, they kind of bring in revenue that way."


Stores such as Gap (GPS) and TJX (TJX) may get nostalgic for winter around this time of year, as only 7% of NRF consumers shop at specialty clothing stores for the holiday. But other retail niches find the holiday as sweet as a truckload of marshmallow Peeps.


Since the basket is big enough to hold, say, a copy of Dragon Age 2, Easter has been a huge video game holiday. Last year alone, the NPD Group credited Easter sales with an $80 million spike in game sales that fueled big returns for Sony's (SNE) "God of War III" and Electronic Arts' (ERTS) "Battlefield: Bad Company 2." Conversely, they also blamed the movable feast for a more than $100 million decline in April sales when the holiday fell on April 4 last year after falling on April 12 a year earlier.


Normally retailers will just compensate by combining their March and April sales as they would with November and December holiday sales numbers. That's not going to be so easy this year, as Easter doesn't come until April 24, the latest it's been since landing on its latest possible date of April 25 in 1943.


Retailers who were spoiled in 2008 when Easter came on March 23 -- one day off its earliest possible date of March 22, where it hasn't fallen since 1818 and won't again until 2285 -- will have to stretch to make up for a fairly moribund March. But they'll have billions in added revenue waiting for them on Easter morning.

"The shift in the Easter holiday often results in the dislocation of sales, but Easter falls in line with Valentine's Day and Mother's Day as a gift-giving holiday," Grannis says. "You're looking at $440 billion that the winter holidays bring in versus the $16 million on average that Easter, Valentine's Day and Mother's Day bring in, but Easter's still always in the top 4."


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Mar 24, 2011 4:55PM
"the winter holidays?"  Do you mean CHRISTMAS?
Mar 24, 2011 6:34PM
The saddest part of this holiday are the rabbits that will be purchased without thought or caring.  A rabbit lives for 10 years and is a big committment not to be taken lightly. 
Mar 24, 2011 6:34PM
I don't celebrate nor have I ever heard of  "winter holiday".   Sheesh!  I guess soon in this country we'll be calling Easter the "spring holiday?"   Christmas and Hanukkah don't have names?    BTW,  it's "Holy Day", not holiday!  What's a holi?
Mar 24, 2011 7:05PM
When they are talking about "the winter holidays",  they are combining Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. They are not doing it to slight any particular holiday/religion, but in order to make it easier to balance the books. And while I agree that Christian beliefs should play a big part in these holidays, as long as we Americans spend wisely and buy American I can justify the Easter Bunny providing a job to someone.
Mar 24, 2011 6:25PM

If I'm reading this correctly, people spend more on Easter stuff than Halloween?  As far as candy sales goes, Halloween still rules, but when you add up money spent on other merchandise, Easter comes out ahead.  


Mother's Day and Valentine's Day are probably ahead of Easter and Halloween because those holidays involve buying more expensive things such as flower arrangements and other gifts.

Mar 24, 2011 5:47PM
There's also Kwanzaa and Chanukah. :) 
Mar 25, 2011 12:52AM

Winter Holidays huh, why not just say Christmas? I know there are other holidays around then, but none compare financially to stores like Christmas.  Politically correct gone amuck.


At least it is still called Easter.

Mar 25, 2011 12:35AM


That is simply not correct. You have been ill informed.  Crack a real history book (not the bible) and you will learn that the Bunny is a simple joyful Pagan symbol.  For thousands of years before christianity, the simple joy of Spring was celebrated. The "We made it through another winter and the world is blossoming again" was celebrated.  The "Nature is regenerating! Gosh, look at all the woodland babies!" was acknowledged and people rejoiced.  In my heart I do too!  I'm in Minnesota and spring's arrival is worth a HIP-HIP- HURRAY!

The Christian Church tried to stomp out this joy by dropping their ghastly crucifixian myth on the day of the Pagan Spring pageant.

Just as they dropped Jesus's birth on the winter solstice. (most Biblical scholars agree Jesus was actually born (if at all) in October.

Your continuing a long Christian tradition of spreading ugly lies about innocent beliefs in order to further your Christ Myth Agenda. THE SEX INDUSTRY!!!! PLEASE!  Give it up! 

The Truth (I know you will hate this but that doesn't mean it's false) is the "Bunny" is the reason for the season...... just good clean fun the real God would approve of.

Mar 25, 2011 6:37AM

This doesn't sound right. I think the numbers must be off somewhere.


I find it hard to believe that Easter outsells Halloween.  Halloween stuff is EXPENSIVE.  You spend the same (if not more) on candy.


AND you deal with costumes... and decorations... etc.


Mar 25, 2011 1:43AM

Truckerwife had you read the article you would understand that for the accounting of the dollars taken in by retailers, they combined Thanksgiving and Christmas. Calling the season the winter holidays. Simple really nothing political.

Mar 24, 2011 6:14PM
The bunny belong to the sex industry not Easter. The eggs is associated with the sex goddess asherah (have sex and multiply so that land will prosper in the same manner). When we talk about taking back America, this is what we mean, taking it back for God. We have removed our foundation which is God and the Bible and refer to it as freedom of religion. Let us remove those things not associated with Christianity/Bible and take back our nation for God.
Mar 24, 2011 5:57PM
So what exactly does this jelly bean pooping rabbit have to do with Easter?  Is there some wierd symbolism I can't figure out?  Like chocolate being brown to represent the color of the cross Jesus died on?  Thats about all I can figure out.  And as kids sit stuffing their faces with sugar at 7am on Easter Sunday (just in time to be completly wired for church) do you think they're gonna stop to ask mommy & daddy why Jesus died?
Mar 24, 2011 8:25PM

It is CHRISTMAS, not winter holidays, especially when they are talking about making money for the economy and store owners. Christmas brings in the money, not the other  "winter holidays", religious or not.....And Easter is also another Christian holiday, which makes it hard to understand by many Christians why there are "kosher" signifying symbols on products for Easter candy, cakes, cookies, wraps, etc......


Many Christians wonder why there are "kosher" signifying symbols on Easter and Christmas products - and why, if any, blessings are not being by Ministers, with the normal fees paid to a non-Christian religion instead go to the respective churches, instead of another non-Christian faith. 

Mar 24, 2011 8:18PM
Not Much Different Than The War On Drugs, & The War On Terror Pitches.  A Monetary World You Know God Doesn't Exist, So Says The Majority. Democracy At It's Best. With Their Paper God System. And The World Has Been Bought And Payed For On A Illusion. HAHAHAHA.
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