Easter wares glitter

Easter wares glitter

April 16th, 2011 by Carey O'Neil in Business Around the Region

Americans are projected to spend more this Easter than last year, which is good news for several Chattanooga retailers relying on a early bump in spring sales.

Last year, the average American spent about $118 on Easter-related purchases such as chocolate eggs, Sunday dresses, greeting cards and flowers. This year, the National Retail Federation expects consumers to bump up their spending to about $131 for the average person, or nearly $14.6 billion in total nationwide spending.

There's still one shopping week till the big white bunny comes, and Candy Craze at Hamilton Place mall has already seen droves of shoppers over the past two weeks preparing for egg hunts.

"When we get to holidays such as Valentine's, Christmas and Easter which deal with candy, there's a big increase," employee Ronald Harmon said.

The small shop at the mall's food court entrance sees between $500 and $600 in sales on an average weekday, Harmon said. In the past few weeks, daily sales have increased to between $700 and $800, with Jelly Belly jelly beans a top seller.

Weekend sales have seen a similar spike. During off-seasons, an extremely good Saturday would bring in $1,500 in sales, he said, but the past couple weekends saw between $1,600 and $2,000.

Just because Easter shoppers are spending more doesn't mean they're not still looking for deals.

"That's one of the reasons why I came here," said Catherine Dendy, who drove all the way from her LaFayette home to the Gunbarrel Road Target to get a good deal on Webkins toys for her kids' Easter baskets.

Trevor Roelfs, a Target manager and five-year employee, wasn't surprised to hear Dendy came out for toys. During his time at the retailer they have become increasingly important.

"It's been bigger for the toys, not so much the candy anymore. They're steering clear from the unhealthy stuff," he said. "There have been a lot of guests looking for the larger-ticket items for their kids. One came in looking for a motorized scooter."

Jamie Lockard wasn't in the market for anything that pricey as she strolled the store's aisles Wednesday, but she was looking to buy toys related to pro wrestling for her 5-year-old daughter's Easter basket.

"She's really into WWE [World Wide Entertainment] right now because of my husband, so he wants to get her some figures," she said. "She loves John Cena, so it's probably going to be John Cena."

Lockard and Dendy both picked up some candy along with their toys, but neither were looking to increase their Easter budget above 2010's.

"I'll probably do about what I did last year, which was less than I had done in years before," she said. "We also have four kids. It's not as easy to do much."

The two mothers' thrifty mentalities seem pervasive among holiday shoppers. Belk employee Margie Kilgore, who has worked in clothing retail for more than 30 years, said she's selling more Easter dresses than in the past. Still, she doesn't know if the increased sales volume will be reflected in the company's bottom line because of deep discounts.

"We sell more now than we did back then," she said, "but it's the markdowns that we have."

Phillip Davis wasn't shopping for dresses when he came out to the mall, though he said he did find a good deal on an Easter outfit for his 6-year-old son.

Low prices are always nice, but Davis said when it comes to the holidays, he doesn't mind spending a little extra on the boy.

"I'll cut corners on other things, but I want him to have as cherished memories on the holidays as I had," he said. "That's what he'll remember."