Retail Traffic Climbs On Easter Weekend — Will The Momentum Continue?

Easter Bunny Bergdorf Goodman
Children and adults shop and play at the 2016 Florence Fancy Easter Bunny Event at Bergdorf Goodman in New York.
REX/Shutterstock.

Easter weekend brought an even greater jolt to U.S. retail traffic than analysts had expected, driving total retail visits up 4.43 percent year-over-year in the fourth week of March.

It was a significant rise from the same period last year, when retail traffic visits had declined 0.82 percent. Total U.S. retail same-store traffic, Citi Research analyst Kate McShane pointed out, also soared 8.76 percent year-over-year for the week.

The timing shift of Easter, which fell on April 5 last year, was likely the biggest factor in the traffic acceleration, so whether the momentum will continue is the question.

Difficult comparisons to last year’s fifth week of March, where traffic soared 13.7 percent year-over-year due to a pre-Easter week shopping boost, will likely result in a decline in traffic this week, analysts said.

We forecast traffic down 11 percent to 13 percent year-on-year for week five of March due to the difficult comparison from lapping strong traffic from the pre-Easter week last year as well as the loss of the shopping day due to store closures,” Cowen and Co. analyst Oliver Chen wrote.

There will be storms across the South and Midwest during parts of the week that could cause traffic disruptions. That said, the Northeast remains warm year-over-year and will see the fourth warmest final week March in 25-plus years, which should be positive for spring apparel.”

Traffic trends in April, Chen added, will likely be predicated on continuing warm weather, which could be a boon to spring apparel and footwear sales.