America's Still Hopped Up About Easter, Despite Rising Costs

The National Retail Federation expects Easter-related sales to climb to $24 billion this year -- a new record. That’s up from $20.8 billion last year, and the previous record of $21.7 billion in 2020.

And while retailers like Walmart are focusing seasonal marketing on combating rising prices, the NRF says the gains represent real growth and higher prices. More people are celebrating, spending an average of $192 when they do, and buying more seasonal items.

The survey, conducted with Prosper Insights and Analytics and based on 8,500 respondents, finds that about 81% of U.S. adults intend to celebrate the holiday in some fashion, up slightly from last year. Of those, 56% of those celebrating plan to cook a holiday meal, half will visit friends and family, 43% intend to attend church, and 34% will stage an egg hunt.



While the holiday pales compared to back-to-school and Christmas, it’s still a significant event in most retailers’ marketing calendars, generating billions in food ($7.3 billion) and candy ($3.3 billion). About 44% will buy flowers, and 27% will buy clothing -- both the highest percentage since the NRF began tracking sales in 2007.

“We are seeing real Easter sales growth compared with pre-pandemic, and among the drivers are consumers who are planning to purchase more Easter clothing and gifts,” says Phil Rist, executive vice president of strategy for Prosper. “Additionally, consumers ages 35 to 44 will bump up their spending more than any other group.”

Even those who don’t celebrate are paying attention to the holiday this year, with 54% saying they plan to shop for Easter bargains, spending about $23 each.

Higher food prices are a continued drag on consumer spending, and Walmart is using a page from its Thanksgiving playbook, offering a full Easter celebration at last year’s prices. It says 65% of its shoppers expect inflation to cut into their Easter bunny budget.

The promotion includes a Walmart-curated Easter meal and an Easter basket, all for less than $100. The package includes ham, green beans, pie and other fixings, a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bunny, Reese’s Eggs and toys.

New research from Circana, formerly IRI and the NPD Group, shows that while inflation is moderating, consumers continue to shift their spending patterns.

Food accounts for roughly half of all retail sales in the U.S., about $1.5 trillion. The at-home portion rose 9% to $931 billion in 2023, while inflation for the 12 months ending in February was 10.2%.

Consumers continue to trade down as a result, choosing value brands, private labels and larger pack sizes. Circana predicts “frugal fatigue” as consumers acclimatize to current grocery prices.

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