Do the bunny shop

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, April 8, 2009

FRANKLIN—Even the Easter Bunny is scaling back because of the economy.

Americans are cutting spending on holiday candy, gifts, food and decorations, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2009 Easter Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey.

Locally, gift shops are still offering plenty of goodies for sale, whether it is decorations, basket stuffers or food.

“With Easter falling later, we’ve had a longer selling season,” said Shannon Bicknell, gift shop manager at The Peanut Patch in Courtland. At lunchtime on Monday, the parking lot was nearly full and patrons ambled around inside looking for deals.

“We sell a lot of peanuts,” Bicknell said. “People stop in on their way out of town and pick up gifts.”

Americans will spend an average of $116.59 on Easter candy, gifts, food and decorations, down from an average of $135.03 last year. Total spending on the holiday is expected to reach $12.73 billion, according to the NRF.

Simply Divine on Armory Drive has been taking plenty of orders for Easter dinner items.

“We make things that they call for that go with hams,” said Liz Britt, owner. “People aren’t buying junk food right now. They’re buying healthier.”

Britt said she anticipates plenty of Easter orders for country hams, homemade yeast and sweet rolls and specialty desserts.

“This is good old cooking,” she said.

Gerri Patnesky, owner of Alphabet Soup, said she has marked her Easter items down 20 percent. Sales haven’t been as brisk as in past years. Patnesky urged everyone to shop locally.

“I just think people are very frightened because of what they hear every day on the economy,” she said. “We have a wonderful gift shop with a lot of cute items, so there is no reason to go out of town shopping unless it’s for something special. Franklin is a wonderful town and the people have been very supportive in the past. We’re neighbors helping neighbors.”

Americans’ largest Easter expense will be in preparing a meal, with the average person expected to spend $37.67 on food (down from $41.09 last year). People will also spend on gifts ($17.30 vs. $21.42 last year), flowers ($7.55 vs. $9.11 in 2008) and candy ($16.55 vs. $18.12 in 2008).

“With Easter falling so late this year, retailers will have plenty of time to entice shoppers with deals on spring apparel and other Easter merchandise,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “Retailers are hopeful that a late Easter will bring warmer weather and put shoppers in the mood to buy clothing, flowers and other holiday gifts.”

The survey found the majority of people — 64 percent — will bargain shop at discounters this year, up from the 58.8 percent who shopped there last year. Still, about one-third (32.5 percent) will head to their favorite department store for Easter merchandise, one in four (22.5 percent) will visit a specialty store, 11.4 percent will shop online and 5.9 percent will buy Easter apparel from a specialty clothing store.

“Many Americans view Easter as the official kickoff to spring,” said Phil Rist, executive vice president, Strategic Initiatives, BIGresearch, the company that conducted the survey. “A later holiday could mean people will take advantage of retailers’ Easter promotions as a way to spruce up their spring wardrobe.”