Life

Parents think outside the basket as gift-giving trend grows

JOANNE RICHARD, Special to QMI Agency

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It's looking a lot like Christmas. Gifts galore and more -- but Santa is nowhere to be seen.

Enter the Easter Bunny with a sackful of toys, clothes and electronic games -- even vacations to the sunny south. Chocolate eggs and marshmallow bunnies just don't cut it anymore.

A gift-giving spending spree trend is hopping along. Parents are thinking outside the Easter basket and it's become the second busiest toy-buying holiday for many major retailers.

Toys are being promoted as a contemporary alternative to traditional candy. At Hasbro, things are really hopping -- their Furreal Friends Hop 'n Cuddle Bunnies are hot stuff.

"As this momentum has gained in popularity, our seasonal offering has increased on popular classic brands like Play-Doh and Mr. Potato Head Spud Bunny," says Sandy Sinclair, senior VP of marketing at Hasbro.

All on board for other holiday-themed items including Thomas and Friends Easter Edition Train, Little People Easter Train, Nanoblocks Easter Island creations and Barbie Easter Sweetie Doll.

For Toys "R" Us, Easter is the second biggest gift-giving time of the year, after Christmas, says spokesman Victoria Spade. "For the past few years, Toys "R" Us has noticed the trend of Easter gift giving, rather than just chocolate or candy purchases."

Easter is the theme of two major Toys "R" Us spring flyers, along with its online site, in-store signage and a public relations campaign.

An Easter hunt made up of hidden plastic eggs filled with surprise toys adds to the magic of Easter, says Spade.

"Gifting toys like some new NHL trading cards or a mini Lalaloopsy doll allows children to enjoy much more play time and value rather than just enjoying the sugar high from a hunt filled with chocolate."

For Wal-Mart too, Easter is also a major toy-selling holiday right behind Christmas, reports Joe Winters, category manager at Wal-Mart Canada, adding that "moms spend on average $10 to $25 per child on Easter on a combination of confectionery, toys and plush."

Mom of three Lydia Stewart says, "I usually get a big chocolate bunny and then a gift from the Easter bunny for each of them, something like a purse, clothing or movie tickets."

Stewart, 48, of Mississauga, Ont., spends about $100 on each child. "It's my favourite holiday of the year and we do a giant hunt and hide the gifts too."

Toys may be tops, but chocolate is still king.

"Easter is the second largest season for Purdy's," says Kriston Dean, director of marketing. "Our chocolatier added a very special item this year with a 2 kg hand-decorated egg filled with an assortment of our very best creams, caramels, nuts and fruit chocolates," says Dean, adding their mini foiled eggs and Topsy Bunny are top seasonal favourites.

Meanwhile, online stores such as thesweetbasket.com report brisk sales of Easter gift baskets brimming with chocolates, cookies and a plush, ranging between $42.95 to $149.95.

Easter is their third busiest holiday, after Christmas and Mother's Day respectively, says Megan Turley, of thesweetbasket.com, which ships out of Montreal.

Online store Organically Hatched gets oodles of orders for Easter baskets filled with items such as hair clips, crayons, leggings, plush toys and even dresses, in addition to the traditional Easter fare.

"There's more focus on things rather than chocolates because there's lots more out there to buy," says owner Shaheen Hirji. "I think parents are trying to limit sweets -- a little bit of chocolate/candy goes a long way."

Customers get to customize their own Easter gift baskets on organicallyhatched.com, based in Coquitlam, B.C.

Gifts.com offers a wide range of themed kids clothing, toys and novelty items too.

Easter for bigger kids can be pricier -- books, DVDs and electronic games get approval from the head Easter bunny.

"As my kids get older, holiday gift giving bites into my budget," admits Toronto mom Stephanie Dennis. "Mini eggs are only the start."

The Dennis family actually had a trip to Orlando, Fla., planned for the four-day holiday, but had to cancel due to a family illness. A hop over the top? "Hey, we all love Easter and there are very few four-day weekends in the year."

Mind your nest egg

Don't be caught without enough eggs in your basket.

Letting the Easter bunny hop freely through your bank account is not a good idea, says Jeffrey Schwartz, executive director of Consolidatedcredit.ca.

"Seems any holiday is a good reason to buy gifts or take a vacation - and another reason to go into debt and Easter is no exception," says Schwartz.

Prepare in advance and work out a budget. "That way you don't have to pay long after the sugar-high has worn off."

Always look for deals, says Schwartz. And if you're going to spend, then only spend what you can afford to pay off in 60-90 days. It's important not to count your eggs before they hatch.

"Remember what the holiday is all about -- it's about spending time with family and friends, not spending money."


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