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The Easter Shift: Myth or Reality?

Thursday, 31 Mar 2011 | 11:18 AM ET

When retailers issue monthly sales reports next week, there is sure to be a lot of discussion about the timing of the Easter holiday and its impact on consumer spending.

This year, Easter falls on April 24, which is nearly three weeks later than the year before.

Spending on Easter isn’t just about chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chicks and Easter dresses. For many people the religious holiday is a signal that spring has sprung, and it’s time to buy new clothes for the warmer weather ahead.

But fortunately for retailers, even if the spending comes late, some forecasters are expecting it to be a bit higher than it was a year ago.

Market researcher IBISWorldestimates Easter spending will rise 4.5 percent from last year, with consumers spending more in almost every category they track.

“Clothing should get a larger bump than last year because of extended promotions and good timing with the release of spring lines,” said Nikoleta Panteva, a retail analyst at IBISWorld. “Although cocoa prices will increase, that won’t stop people from buying this small-ticket item. In fact, candy should see the biggest boost this Easter.”

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“Flowers might decline in sales because it may be difficult keeping them alive through the entire month of April, especially with the cold weather we've had this year," Panteva said. "Food on the other hand should get a boost since it is a family holiday and consumers are likely to splurge on a good meal rather than decorations or greeting cards.”

As for how spending on Easter stacks up against other holidays during the year, IBIS estimates it ranks fifth among the holidays. (To see a complete breakdown of how much Americans spend on major national holidays, check out our slideshow.)

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com

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