retail nrf easter Florence Fancy Easter Bunny Event, New York - 12 Mar 2016Florence Fancy Easter Bunny Event, New York - 12 Mar 2016

The Easter Bunny might just hop to retail’s rescue this year — and after a brutal winter, merchants will take all the help they can get.

National Retail Federation’s annual survey of consumer intentions ahead of Easter, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, found that spending for the holiday is expected to rise 6 percent to $18.4 billion — a new all-time high in the survey’s 14-year history. On average, those celebrating Easter plan to spend $152 per person.

The holiday comes on April 16 this year, giving shoppers nearly three additional weeks to prepare compared with last year.

“By the time the holiday comes, the weather should be significantly warmer than last Easter,” said Matthew Shay, the NRF’s president and chief executive officer. “That should put shoppers in the frame of mind to splurge on spring apparel along with Easter decorations. With the economy improving, consumers are ready to shop and retailers are ready to offer great deals whether they’re buying Easter baskets or garden tools.”

Half of the 7,411 shoppers surveyed are planning to buy apparel for Easter, up from 45 percent a year earlier, spending a total of $3.3 billion, a 9 percent increase.

It’s significant that the fashion spending increase is expected to the rise faster in overall expenditures since the reverse has generally been true for some time.

Last year, total retail sales rose 3 percent to $5.5 trillion, but apparel and accessories specialty stores saw a gain of less than 1 percent to $257 billion and department store sales fell nearly 6 percent to $155 billion, according to government’s official sales tally.

Shoppers instead opted to spend their dollars online last year as well as on their cars, their health, their homes and food.

Easter too is becoming increasingly digital, with the survey showing that 27 percent of people will shop online, up from 21 percent last year.

However, there will still be plenty of shoppers in stores. The survey showed that 58 percent of consumers plan to go to discount stores, while 46 percent head to department stores.

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