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This time of year, with holiday parties and shopping consuming your time, the last thing you’re thinking about is March 2016. But knowing an early Easter is approaching, now is the time to make sure you start 2016 with a bang.
Easter is on Sunday, March 27th this year, the earliest date since 2008, proving the shortest buying season in many years. Just like with other holidays, the week leading up to Easter is where we see spend increase the most. This means you have fewer days to achieve your Q1, spring season sales plan in the coming year.
And we’re not just talking about dresses and candy; Easter is a heavy hitter for several categories. The key is to focus your marketing strategy a bit more broadly, to the spring season rather than just the Easter weekend to not only capture new customers but get your loyal customers back in to the store.
For many people, Easter shopping is associated more with springtime than with the Easter bunny. While apparel and food & beverage do trend well in the week prior to Easter, we also see other characteristic springtime categories, like gardening and home furnishings.
For those of us living above the Mason-Dixon Line, winter gets long. As soon as the days grow longer and snow starts to melt, we’re thinking spring. Even in the southern states, March is when the weather is shifting. We are thinking about warmer days outside and are making purchases to prepare. We start planning our gardens, deep-cleaning/organizing our homes and preparing the list of summer projects. Because of this, we see patio, garden, home décor and furnishings cover some of the biggest Easter spend categories.
Patio and garden may not be the categories you think to promote for Easter, but those categories consistently performing during Easter campaigns. If you’re not thinking spring, you may be missing out. For the 12 months ending April 2015, 15 percent of the patio and garden category’s annual sales occurred in the days between Valentine’s Day and Easter.
To prepare for the shortened Easter season, we recommend you look beyond last year’s trends and strategically plan your campaigns with the holiday shifts now. Plan to cascade, especially in the 3 weeks leading up to Easter. To extend your selling window and stretch your marketing spend, focus on language about spring rather than specific to Easter. To drive your most loyal customers back in to the store and drive sales consider offering spring previews for your top-tier customers.
The key this coming year is to get an early jump on Easter, but then don’t forget the period between Easter and Mother’s Day. Right-sizing your marketing and sales plans with these changes in mind will set you up for success and ensure your key business partners are aligned to the subsequent shift in sales and avoid reactionary business changes.
When merchandising, remember that you’ll move through the Easter-specific categories quickly because of the early date, but non-Easter-specific spring categories will have a longer shelf life. This means you need to be patient and keep pushing spring items, even after Easter this year. Don’t be too quick to move spring goods to clearance – keep promoting your spring goods for Mother’s Day. Leverage your loyalty program to do this. Consider offering customers that are shopping early in the season a bounce-back coupon that’s good leading up to Mother’s Day. Get creative and keep promoting apparel, patio & garden and home décor and furnishings. With tax day, you may also want to push big-ticket items as part of a tax refund campaign.
Your competitors will probably be scrambling to plan for Easter this year. Use this to your benefit by planning for Easter, but also thinking creatively about how to maintain spring sales through Mother’s Day leveraging your most loyal customer segments.
To learn more about the Easter season and how you can think ahead to get a head-start on your spring season, view our Easter market trends 2016 e-book.