Easter was not business-as-usual for retailers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Online sales for the holiday, known for chocolate bunnies, candy, Easter baskets and pastel-colored dresses, had mixed results.
The National Retail Federation projected total sales for Easter in 2019 at $18.1 billion, with average expected spending per person at $151.25. The organization, however, did not publish its annual Easter consumer survey for 2020. It still conducted the survey in March, before stay-at-home orders swept the nation and non-essential stores closed. It did not publish the results as they would not reflect the current market, the NRF says.
Instead, the NRF asked consumers in early April whether they were planning to celebrate Easter this year. According to the survey, 77% of U.S. consumers said they would celebrate Easter, and more than half, or 51%, said they would celebrate by cooking a holiday meal; 34% said they would visit family or friends virtually; 32% said they would attend church virtually; 24% said they would participate in an Easter egg hunt at home; and 12% said they would open gifts.
“There’s no denying Easter Sunday looked a little different this year than most people planned,” says Krista Corrigan, a retail analyst at Edited, a retail data platform. “With most brick-and-mortar locations shuttered, customers’ shopping patterns saw a change as well.”
Consumers shopping for Easter dresses may have noticed fewer choices available online, as the number of “new-in” dresses declined 18% year on year, Corrigan says.
“While last year noted a gradual build in dress arrivals in the lead up to Easter, the opposite occurred this year,” Corrigan says. “This year, the market saw the most new-in products land online in early February, and the numbers have been on a gradual descent ever since as the coronavirus continues to impact retailers’ supply chains.”
Arrivals of new merchandise were not the only negative impacts from the coronavirus pandemic, the analyst says.
In addition, sellouts in the 2-week period prior to Easter declined 45% as consumers held back from spending, she says. In particular, girls’ dresses saw the biggest decline compared to women’s dresses year over year, Corrigan says.
Easter gifts, such as personalized Easter baskets and stuffed bunnies, typically amount to $1 million in sales at GiftsForYouNow.com, says president Jim Tuchler.
However, this year, online sales are down 60%, says Tuchler. “We would sell 50,000 Easter-themed items, normally, and this year, we sold 40% of that, or 20,000,” he says.
The good news is, he can save the non-perishable gifts for next year. “It’s obviously bad for cash flow, but I can’t sell this any other time of year—no one wants Easter baskets any other time of year,” Tuchler says.
For Valos Chocolates, in business since 1947, owner John Mandak credits online sales for saving the holiday. Mandak estimates the retailer has sold roughly $50,000 in Easter candy through its website, which it just launched in December 2019.
“We did quite a bit of business on it, thank God we had it up,” Mandak says about its ecommerce site. “Our plan is to now spend the summer really going full bore into this ecommerce business as that’s where everything is going.”
The chocolate maker starts producing chocolates for Easter right after Christmas and ceased production about a month ago, he says. “It’s amazing how things changed over the last three weeks,” Mandak says. “Three weeks ago, I thought ‘I have all this Easter candy, what am I going to do with it?”
Other retailers offered discounts online before the holiday in attempts to capture Easter sales. Swiss chocolate maker Lindt offered 35% off all Easter items online and 40% off Easter items purchased for curbside delivery, Target offered 30% off Easter candy, and Godiva offered a 20% off sitewide through April 12.
Meanwhile, floral retail giant 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. (No. 79 in the 2019 Digital Commerce 360 Top 500), says “business continues to perform well,” although the spokeswoman declined to provide sales figures. “We are seeing many new customers shopping with us,” she says.
“The Easter and Passover period have seen people shift their family plans to celebrate these holidays apart—often sending flowers, food and other gifts for ‘virtual’ celebrations,” the spokeswoman says. “With the current healthcare crisis, it has been a very dynamic and evolving environment, and the team has had to rethink and reset plans almost daily to meet demand.”
The retailer introduced “contactless” delivery, fulfilled by local florists, the spokeswoman says. “We value the important role we are playing in helping people stay connected with others during this unprecedented time,” the spokeswoman says.