Easter is little more than a week away, and some reports predict a lackluster selling season for trinkets, apparel and other holiday staples, because the moveable feast falls so early in the spring calendar. The National Retail Federation’s annual forecast says spending is expected to be flat, compared to 2012 – but it’s still a $17 billion holiday. According to the NRF, candy and dinner fixings will make up the bulk of the $145.13 each person polled expects to spend on the March 31 holiday.
Note also the mention of Easter apps by the NRF. You might check with local merchants and malls about any new apps they are creating, or even with apps developers about holiday/consumer related commissions they may have received this year.
It’s a natural time to check in on apparel sales, which have been challenged in recent years as, obviously, consumer remain cautious about discretionary purchases amid ever-more-casual business and social dress codes. You might check in on the apparel landscape — which stores are making it and which have disappeared from area shopping centers and strip malls. (Here’s a hint for the long term: Always pick up mall directory brochures when possible, or make a habit of printing out online ones quarterly — you’ll build a file and be able to look back to double-check on comings and goings of mall tenants when center operators might be reluctant to go into detail.) Here’s an interesting market research report that says consumers appear to be more open to trying new clothing retailers; how are merchants by you cashing in?
With food such a big part of the economic impact of Easter, you might focus on how grocers and restaurants cope with the seasonal demand for items like specialty butter (lamb-shaped, or unsalted for baking), candy, hams, special pastries and of course, eggs — which get my vote for the commodity most ripe for a profile.
I can’t help but notice that in general eggs are a hot product this year, and it seems every week a new iteration of them is on grocer’s shelves, from pre-boiled and pre-peeled to cage-free to eggs with Omega 3 added. MacDonald’s just introduced the yolk-free Egg McMuffin. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has lots of egg data, including this (PDF) weekly sales trend report. You might also look at sales of non-chicken eggs — are consumers or chefs seeking products from more exotic birds?
Here’s a story from Grand Rapids, Mich. about a regional egg producer with six million hens; the story touches on a variety of timely story angles including humane treatment of chickens and the fact that business for this producer triples at Easter time. I was also intrigued by a graf near the end of the story that says the process of collecting, cleaning and packaging of the eggs; how does that work? A graphic or video would be fascinating, and in turn a look at the companies which design and supply egg-handling equipment — which by its nature must be precise and yet capable of handling the fragile products with care. Here’s an international company, Prinzen, that has all sorts of neat devices from egg-coding devices that take measurements, apparently, to a Speedpack machine that promises to gently maneuver the eggs.