Positive economic trends – including lower interest rates, high consumer confidence, and low unemployment at 4.1 percent – continue the encouraging pace as we enter the spring shopping season.

Chocolate bunnies and baskets are just around the corner
According to a survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosperity Insights & Analytics, Americans spent a record $18.4 billion on Easter in 2017, an average of $152 per person, with estimates expected to nearly match those numbers this year. Of all planned Easter purchases, 89 percent involve candy. Traditional treats like chocolate bunnies, cream-filled eggs, jellybeans, and marshmallow chicks will continue to top shopping lists.

Toys and crafts are still a hit
There are plenty of basket stuffers for the little ones, and you don’t have to spend much. Discount stores like Dollar General offer a wide variety of Easter gifts. In fact, consumers will look to discount stores more than online or traditional department stores this year. For special surprises, Personal Creations offers customized toys and accessories for your child’s Easter basket. For convenience, Amazon features an assortment of toy-filled plastic eggs in bulk, delivered to your doorstep in two days or less.

Dining
Easter Sunday is a time for gathering with family over a special meal. Shared experiences are highly valued. This year, 60 percent of Americans will visit family and friends, and 58 percent will cook at home. Southern Living and Tablespoon offer a wide variety of recipes, along with special treats for the kids. If you don’t feel like spending time in the kitchen, there are thousands of restaurants with special Easter brunch hours for April 1st.

Passover
The Jewish holiday of Passover will be celebrated from March 30 through April 7. Consumers seeking kosher-friendly items is a major focus this time of year. Not only are kosher foods more easily available today, but they have become increasingly popular because of the high demand for gluten-free and all-natural products. Since 2012, the number of Passover food products has more than doubled to over 53,000. Special culinary creativity is important, since the absence of leavening is a central practice of this tradition. There are numerous Passover recipes and a variety of products ranging from the primary food of matzah to special meats and kosher wines.

Time for home repairs?
Spring is the time of year for consumers to spend more on home improvements and new appliances. The Home Depot and Lowe’s recently announced they would hire around 130,000 temporary workers for the peak season of spring. In addition, Lowe’s also announced that the company will pay employees up to $1,000 in bonuses and expand benefits in 2018 as a result of the recent tax reform.

Goodbye to another historical brand
While the macro-trends for 2018 are positive, Toys “R” Us recently announced the company will close or sell all of its U.S. stores. Liquidation sales have already started. The retailing giant known for the jingle “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us kid” filed for bankruptcy in late 2017. Declining sales, burdensome debt, and heavy competition from both digital players and big-box stores proved to be too much for the once iconic brand.

“Retailers are still adjusting to changed consumer habits. There will be more store closing this year from retailers who haven’t evolved their business models enough,” says Kelli Hollinger, director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Mays Business School. “But, 2017 predictions of the ‘death of retail’ or the click-bait phrase of ‘retail-apocalypse’ are wrong. Retail is very much alive.”