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On the radar: Timing of Easter and Passover in 2019 will shift retail spending from March to April

The timing of the Easter and Passover holidays can impact the economic data due to difficulty in seasonally adjusting for their variable calendar date. At times the mismatch between the dates for one year to the next can mean its better to consider an average of the data related to both months rather than each in isolation.

In 2019, Easter falls on Sunday, April 21, a full three weeks after the April 1, 2018. Where this is most likely to be visible is in the March and April retail sales reports. Last year the timing of the holiday meant that most retail promotional activity occurred in March, as well as being sufficiently early in the spring that demand for mild weather gear and outdoor activities would be less. This year it will arrive after mid-month in April. Consumer spending will occur within that calendar month and should coincide with weather that will encourage consumers to take advantage of sales of seasonal merchandise. It will also fall after the end of tax season. By then, the majority of consumers who are getting a refund should have it in hand.

The March data on retail and food services sales will be reported at 8:30 ET on Thursday, April 18 and the April data on Wednesday, May 15. March is likely to see softer sales at department stores, restaurants, and garden centers than in 2018, while April should get a boost in the same categories. March could see some lingering impacts from the government shutdown in terms of a later start to arrivals of tax refunds.

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