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Published: 3/30/2010

Brisk sales put spring back in step of Toledo area retailers

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Gordon Ebright probably could have used some help from the Easter Bunny Monday.

"It's just been one of those days," Mr. Ebright, owner of the Schakolad Chocolate Factory store at Levis Commons in Perrysburg, said.

"Whenever I start to make [chocolate] bunnies, I've had to stop and help the customers. I start making bunnies, then I stop to help the customers. I start making bunnies, then I stop. It's been like that all day long," he said.

But make no mistake. Mr. Ebright said the stop-and-go was a good thing - a sure sign that his Easter candy sales will be strong this year.

"Easter sales are doing quite well," he said.

Overall, retailers are expected to have sweeter sales by the time Easter arrives this Sunday.

The National Retail Federation forecasts that the average person will spend up to $119 this year on Easter merchandise, up about $2 from last year. Total spending will be $13 billion.

On candy alone, spending will average $17, up less than a $1 from a year ago, the retail federation said.

Debra Greenley Gorman, owner of the Chocolate Shoppe, also in Perrysburg, said she has reordered several items, including some peanut butter eggs that won't arrive until tomorrow.

"That's kind of late in the week, but we took them because we feel that we can sell them," she said. She expects sales to match last year's.

A plus this year for Toledo area retailers who sell Easter merchandise is that many of the area schools will not start their annual spring-break holiday until Monday. That means most families will remain in the area through Sunday.

Tradition for the holiday usually means Easter candy, clothes, food, flowers, and decorations, according to the retail federation.

Frank Viviano, owner of Bartz-Viviano florists, said Easter used to bring high demand for lilies, corsages, and floral centerpieces, but not so anymore.

"What's ironic is 50 years ago, Easter was the largest holiday in the floral business. You had the religious holiday aspect and everybody got dressed up and people wore corsages," Mr. Viviano said. "It was a very traditional day but anymore … it's not celebrated as much."

Still, the retail trade group predicts the average consumer will spend nearly $8 on flowers, and Mr. Viviano said with spring break coming next week, he expects to sell blooming plants, which are now in higher demand at Easter. "Blooming gardens and mixed-bulb gardens are very popular," he added.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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