Fewer consumers are planning to celebrate Easter this year and overall spending at retail is expected to be $18.11 billion, down roughly $50 million from a year ago. Easter spending peaked in 2017 at $18.36 billion and has trended downward since, according to the National Retail Federation and it’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.
The report for 2019 indicates average per capita spending at $151.25, higher than last year’s $150.05. The survey found 79% of consumers plan to celebrate Easter, down from 81% in 2018. The 79% is the lowest recorded in the past decade, with celebration numbers peaking at 83% in 2013.
The survey reports food is the biggest spend on this annual holiday at $5.74 billion overall. Also, 50% of men and 58% of women said they will cook a holiday meal, while 19% of men and 13% of women plan to eat out at a restaurant on Easter. The most popular way to celebrate is spending time with family and friends as 53% of men and 60% of women named that as their way to celebrate Easter. About half of those surveyed said they also plan to attend church services on Easter Sunday.
Spending by region does vary with consumers in Northeastern states leading the pack at $184.91 in average spend. The Midwest had the lowest anticipated average spend at $132.62. Consumers in the South and Western parts of the United States had average spending rates of $145.19 and $147.48, respectively.
Apparel and fashion accessories are the second largest category spend for consumers at Easter. This year the total spend is expected to be $3.74 billion, up from $3.2 billion in 2018. If the estimates are met, it will be a record for apparel spending at Easter.
Economists said with a long winter in much of the country, retailers have stockpiled apparel imports ahead of tariff increases. With consumer spending somewhat mixed in recent weeks, retailers remain optimistic shoppers will be eager to get spring and summer clothing even if they can’t wear it right away.
Easter is also a big holiday for candy sales which are projected to be $2.49 billion this year. That’s down from $2.63 billion in 2018. Another $1.78 billion will be spent on greeting cards and Easter decorations, according to the survey.
Outlook for consumer spending has weakened in the past month despite rising job numbers and modest wage growth, according to Sarah House, senior economist with Wells Fargo. She said rising fuel and food costs are not yet stalling household spending. She said if the labor market continues to tighten, there could be more pressure on inflationary pricing in the back half of the year. House said consumers overall are in sound positions financially and she doesn’t expect that to change anytime soon.