Survey says spending up for Easter

Ah, Easter.

The ham dinners, the Cadbury Creme Eggs, the new spring outfits, the Cadbury Creme Eggs, the festive flowers.

Did we mention the Cadbury Creme Eggs?

This may rank as heresy, but the Easter bunny will deliver something far more important than chocolate this season. With slight improvements in the jobs market, some added consumer confidence and a fillip of population growth, 2011’s Easter holiday is set to supply an economic boost to Las Vegas and the rest of the nation, according to retail experts.

The National Retail Federation said it expects spending on Easter goodies, decor and clothes to average $131.04 per consumer through Sunday.

That’s up 10.5 percent, from $118.60, during 2010’s Easter season, but it remains slightly below peak Easter spending of around $135 per shopper in 2007 and 2008. Spending on the springtime holiday cratered at around $116 per person in 2009.

“Though lingering concerns over food and energy prices may keep shoppers from splurging, retailers are expecting consumers to stock up on apparel, home decor and, of course, food and candy, a good sign leading into the much busier and important months to come,” said Matthew Shay, president and chief executive officer of the National Retail Federation, in a statement.

And though Las Vegas has fared far worse than most of the country during the downturn, locals cruising the aisles Friday inside the 99 Cents Only store on Nellis Boulevard said they’re spending more on Easter year over year.

Take Las Vegan Frances Cooper.

Cooper couldn’t possibly spend less on Easter this year than she dropped in 2010: She didn’t buy any holiday goodies a year ago, or in any prior year, for that matter.

But Cooper decided to assemble a basket for her 10-month-old nephew’s first Easter, and her younger sisters, brother and niece wanted in on the deal.

“They all asked for baskets, so I decided to be nice,” said Cooper, who spent $42.40 on seven shopping bags full of baskets, faux grass, candy and toys.

Friday’s outing wasn’t the only Easter splurge for Cooper, a department-store saleswoman. She also bought Easter outfits for her siblings, nieces and nephews at Ross Dress For Less, and her family is chipping in for their first Easter barbecue this weekend at a local park.

“I’m excited about it. I like to make everyone happy,” she said.

Executives with the California-based 99 Cents Only chain foresaw improved Easter spending in 2011, and they moved to meet the demand.

The retailer, which operates 12 local stores, expanded its Easter offerings, stocking more and bigger Easter baskets. It also increased the floor space dedicated to its build-a-basket program, which allows shoppers to create goody packages starting with baskets and going on up to wrapping paper and bows.

Mike Botterman, vice president of buying for 99 Cents Only, said more consumers have moved toward the chain for everyday shopping, including housewares, groceries and produce. That gain in foot traffic yielded an opportunity to expand into new retailing categories, including Easter goods.

Consumers remain budget-conscious, though: The National Retail Federation said 62.6 percent of shoppers they surveyed expected to pick up Easter items at discount stores; 36.6 percent said they’d hit department stores.

At Dressbarn, a New York-based women’s clothing retailer with five Las Vegas stores, sales typically surge around Easter, as the demand for new dresses jumps.

Keith Fulsher, Dressbarn’s chief merchandising officer, said the company’s “competitive promotions” and price points help women feel better about spending this Easter season.

“We’re also finding many women are taking a more conscientious approach to their purchases, making sure the items they select can be worn again, whether for the workplace or upcoming social occasions,” Fulsher said.

Veronica Hernandez’ three daughters, ages 2 to 12, all netted new Easter outfits in 2011, after going without in 2010. The girls can credit 2011’s cashing-in to better economic conditions inside their home. A year ago, Hernandez’ husband, Eddie Navarro, a sprinkler salesman, was unemployed, and only Hernandez, a cashier, had a job. Now, both parents work. As they checked out of the 99 Cents Only store with a cart full of baskets and candy Friday, Hernandez noted that the Las Vegas family had already spent $80 on Easter, up from roughly $25 a year ago.

“We can spend a little more on them this year,” Hernandez said. “I feel proud. I feel better.”

Maria Torres has also invested more in Easter this year. Her 16-month-old son, Daigoro, was 4 months old during Easter 2010, and too young for a basket. This year, though, Torres plans to give her son a first Easter “he won’t forget.” She expected to spend up to $50 on the effort, starting with a Friday outing at the 99 Cents Only store.

Las Vegan Lee Cervoni wheeled an overflowing cart out of the store as he headed home to put together baskets for his wife and his three kids, who, uh, aren’t exactly children anymore, at ages 17, 20 and 22.

“They’ll always be kids to me,” Cervoni said.

Thanks to a visit from out-of-town relatives, Cervoni is set to drop as much as $200 on Easter goodies and dinner this year, up from about $125 in 2010. As for budgeting? Meh.

“It don’t matter. I’m always broke anyhow,” he said. “Might as well just enjoy it a little while we’re broke.”

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at or 702-380-4512.

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