EASTER SALES OVER THE YEARS
2012 $16.75 billion (projected)
2011 $14.656 billion
2010 $13.029 billion
2009 $12.726 billion
2008 $14.447 billion
2007 $14.371 billion
AVERAGE EASTER PER CAPITA SPENDING
Greeting cards $7.04
Combined average $145.28
Source: National Retail Federation
More than 400 pounds of chocolate bunnies, eggs, truffles and other treats will leave the doors of Main Street's The Hot Chocolatier by the time the Easter Bunny finishes its Sunday morning rounds.
"We've been selling bunnies as fast as we can make them," said owner Wendy Buckner. "I know it's going to get busier in the next couple days."
Sales so far are triple those of 2011 for what tends to be her highest-volume sales holiday of the year. To keep up with demand, she's extending her hours tonight and Saturday and crafting as much as 80 pounds of chocolate a day.
Easter sales figures are expected to rise above pre-recession levels, led by strong food, clothing and, of course, candy sales. About 90 percent of consumers celebrating the unofficial start to spring plan to do so by spending about $20 on candy, according to data from the National Retail Federation.
Ringgold, Ga., area resident Anna Cline did her part to contribute to the Easter sales boost Thursday afternoon. She was out shopping for Easter clothes and gifts with her sister, niece, nephew and teenage daughter.
The kids were antsy but easy to shop for, Cline said. Her 14-year-old daughter Caty, who plans to sing at two church services Sunday, was a different story.
"It's an important thing," Anna Cline said. "We went through about 15 dresses already."
Consumers shopping for Easter clothes are expected to spend about $54 each this year. That's up about 10 percent over last year.
On average, Easter shoppers are expected to buy $145 worth of clothes, food, flowers and basket fillers for a total economic impact of $16.75 billion. That's up from $14.66 billion in 2011 and a six-year low of $12.77 billion in 2009.
"The average American at this point is now OK with the fact that they have some money to spend on discretionary items," said Kathy Grannis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. "While they're out maybe buying a new dress for church, they may also splurge and treat themselves and their children to new warm weather outfits."
Plenty of customers were feeling confident when shopping at Dillard's at Hamilton Place mall this past week. The department store drew double-digit growth over last year's Easter, and assistant store manager Daniel Feiste expects today to be one of his store's busiest Fridays of the year.
"This is our biggest event for the first quarter," he said. "Overall, it's been a great week for us."
Cline's daughter, niece and nephew outgrew last year's spring wardrobe, so her and her sister were helping those sales numbers climb even higher.
Her grandmother also will contribute a good bit of money to Easter sales. Every year she prepares a feast for about 25 family members, helping reach a projected $5 billion in food sales, and scatters candy-filled eggs around the yard for the kids to find.
"She's done the same thing every year. It's kind of a tradition," Cline said. "It wouldn't be Easter if she didn't."