Easter bunny handing out more toys than treats
Retailers seize opportunity as parents eschew chocolate and candy in favour of non-edible basket stuffers
LOS ANGELES— Look out, candy man: Toymakers are moving in on your plastic-grass turf.
Retailers and toy companies are working together this year to create items for children’s Easter baskets that go well beyond chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks.
The efforts are paying huge dividends. Easter-season consumer spending is expected to hit a record $18.4 billion (U.S.) this year, a figure that would vault the holiday past Valentine’s Day for the first time, according to the National Retail Federation in the U.S. Easter would trail only Christmas, back-to-school and Mother’s Day among the year’s main events for retail revenue.
“There’s about a billion dollars of toys sold the three weeks leading into Easter,” said Jim Silver, editor of Time to Play Magazine, an industry publication. “Manufacturers have been making toys that are Easterbasket friendly and come in eggshaped packages.”
The trend presents another challenge for candy companies such as Hershey Co. Changing consumer tastes, including a shift away from sugar and processed ingredients, have eroded sales and put pressure on food companies to control expenses. Traditional candy-consuming holidays such as Easter are more critical than ever as the industry struggles to ignite sales growth. The timing of the holiday is crucial. Easter Sunday landed on March 27 last year, which gave people less time to shop for candy and gifts. Hershey, the largest seller of chocolate in the U.S., blamed the early holiday for weighing down 2016 sales.
This year, however, companies are benefiting from an Easter holiday that falls on April 16, almost three weeks later. Warmer weather this weekend could prompt more people to get out to stores and host family gatherings, said Ana Serafin Smith, a spokeswoman for the retail federation.
The extra time bodes well for retailers like Toys “R” Us Inc. The chain is asking shoppers to “think outside the basket,” with basket-stuffers like $18 Lego dinosaurs, Mattel Inc.’s $20 Monster High fashion dolls and Nintendo Co.’s $50 Pokemon Moon video game.
Toy companies also got shrewder in their product design and packaging this year. Manufacturer Jakks Pacific Inc. is offering Disney Tsum Tsum collectible figures in pastel colours for the holiday.
“Moms like the idea of adding other things,” said Sara Rosales Montalvo, a spokeswoman for Jakks, “so that the Easter basket isn’t completely filled with candies and chocolates.”