April 6, 2012, 2:20 PM

Easter shoppers hop online

Nearly 20% of consumers will buy Easter goods online.

Lead Photo

Easter is the third-largest holiday for consumer retail spending—after Christmas and Valentine’s Day—and consumers this year will spend 11% more on average preparing for the holiday than last year, according to the National Retail Federation, a trade group for retailers. U.S. consumers will spend an average of $145.28, up from $131.04 a year ago. Total spending on candy, food, gifts, flowers, decor and apparel is expected to reach $16.75 billion, up 14.3% from $14.66 billion last year.

The good news for e-retailers is that more Easter shoppers will be shopping online. 18.7% of consumers say they’ll shop online preparing for Easter, up from 14.8% last year, the NRF says. Online shopping is even more pronounced among consumers who own tablet computers, such as an iPad. More than half of tablet owners—52.3%—say they’ll go online to research their Easter buys, and 25.7% of them say they’ll make an online purchase. The NRF Easter consumer spending survey was conducted in early March among more than 9,200 U.S. adults.

Pam Macharola, president of Blair Candy's e-commerce division, says Easter candy sales were up 13% over last year, and that the early placement of Easter Sunday on the calendar contributed to a sales pattern that was different than last year. Most of those sales gains were in the last two weeks, she says. Popular flavors of jelly beans and marshmallow Peeps sold out in the rush. “We had the very early shoppers, and then sales kind of died,” she says. “Then the past two weeks have been just crazy. I think the mild temperatures played into the slowdown and then everyone panicked when they realized they only had two weeks to go!” Blair Candy is No. 877 in Internet Retailer’s Second 500 Guide.

The e-retailer used its blog and Facebook page to share Easter-themed recipes, like one for cupcakes topped with candy, instructions on how to create a winning Easter basket and links to videos of chocolate bunnies being made. Consumers are expected to spend an average of $20.35 on Easter candy this year, up from $18.55 a year ago, according to the NRF survey.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. ran a text message mobile campaign to spur consumers into an Easter state of mind. The department store retailer sent a text message Sunday that hyped a one-day Easter sale to consumers’ phones. The message also contained a link to J.C. Penney’s mobile commerce site, with a landing page that displayed Easter dresses.  The message opened with “Listen up peeps!” and offered kids free bunny ears in store.  J.C. Penney is No. 20 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide.

Meal planning and recipe seller eMeals.com also jumped on the bunny theme, using its Pinterest board page to collect and promote baking, decorating and meal ideas to consumers. Approximately 30% of total Easter spending, $5.1 billion, will be spent on food, according to the NRF survey. Pinterest, a social network which was launched less than two years ago by Cold Brew Labs Inc., enables users to ‘Pin’ web images that they like. Those Pins are then gathered together on the user’s Board, which she can organize and share with friends.

Brian Kalma, chief experience officer at custom jewelry retailer Gemvara.com will speak this June at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 in Chicago in a session titled "Interest in Pinterest: How the social site drives retail traffic."

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