“The Easter enigma”

09 March 2017, 07:59 am
Expert Eye by John Shepherd

What’s It all About Easter? (to the tune of What’s It All About Alfie? Sung of course by Cilla Black) often springs to mind at this time of year

Once the haggis, smoked salmon and whisky have been put away following Burns Night, and ditto the chocolates, Champagne and smoked salmon for Valentine’s Day, an old retailer’s thoughts inevitably turn to Easter and time for more chocolates, Champagne and smoked salmon and, of course, Easter eggs. However I cannot help thinking that Easter is not all it used to be. In the old days it was a sort of Christmas-lite. Lots of decorations, an explosion of yellow, mountains of hot cross buns and an army of Easter eggs. It was a real Easter Parade of interesting products, and Good Friday and Easter Monday were great celebratory breaks from the dull routine of winter.

It still is an important time for speciality food shops and the second biggest festivity, but now that hot cross buns are available throughout the year in some supermarkets, and everyone seems to sell Easter eggs and edible treats in-store and online, perhaps its retail significance has diminished. Conventional wisdom has suggested that it is better for retailers if Easter falls earlier because it is before schools break up, it is closer to pay day and the weather is more conducive to eating chocolate eggs. In fact, recent evidence suggests that this is the case, looking at footfall figures from high street over the last few years. In 2013 when Easter fell on March 31st it was 6.9% up on 2012 when Easter fell on April 8th.

In 2014, when Easter Sunday fell on April 20th, it was 6.4% down on 2013. However in 2015, when Easter fell on April 5th, it was a further 2% down on the year before. In this case the reasons were suggested as election uncertainty, economic worries and the usual old standby of the weather. It is a fascinating aspect to consider when political events are related to purchases in a food shop. Apparently our American food sales have been significantly down since the election of Mr Trump into the White House. How this is connected I am not sure. Perhaps the topic for another article?

This analysis is not entirely supported by our own experience at Partridges, however. Easter sales in 2014 were weaker than 2015 when there was the election uncertainty, and 2015 was stronger than 2016 when Easter was earlier. Hence the reason why I called this article ‘The Easter enigma’. It is a very unpredictable time of the year with the weather, the strength of the pound, the occurrence of school holidays and all sorts of other factors playing a part. The week after Easter is also one of the quietest weeks of the year for us as so many customers have gone away, and one of the most depressing sights to behold is reduced to clear or partially damaged Easter Eggs – just like Christmas trees on the pavement two days after Christmas. Luckily we have avoided going down this route in recent years, although might not have maximised sales in the process.

Adopt a positive attitude towards the display daffodils, chicks and bunnies, Easter eggs, panettone and bank holiday pay for staff. It is a great time for families to be together, and of course summer is coming!

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