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Merchants ready to help ease Easter preparations
Honey Baked Ham employee William Harris shows some of the popular items for the Easter dinner table at the store near Market Place Boulevard in Cumming. Local retailers are busy this week helping Forsyth residents get ready for the holiday. - photo by Crystal Ledford

CUMMING — Retailers are busy this week helping Forsyth County residents prepare to put on their spring fashions, head to church and gather for Easter dinner Sunday.

According to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, the average American plans to spend about $137 on apparel, food, candy, gifts and more this holiday.

That’s slightly less than the $145 spent in 2013, with total spending for the nation this year expected to reach $15.9 billion.

Those numbers don’t surprise Doug Griffith, manager of the Honey Baked Ham Store near Market Place Boulevard in Cumming.

“Easter is one of our busiest times of the year,” he said. “It’s right there in the big three for us — Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.” 

The store’s namesake item is probably the most popular at Easter, Griffith said, but many of the side items are also big sellers.

“People love the green bean casserole, the broccoli and rice casserole, and then of course our desserts,” he said.

This year, according to Griffith, the chain has added new items such as specialty bacon and orange rolls that could be served for breakfast or brunch.

“Really, our goal is to provide items that make any meal more easy because if people spend less time in the kitchen, that’s more time they have to spend with their families,” he said.  

The Heavenly Dove Christian Bookstore is there to help families with faith-focused items.

While Easter doesn’t quite compare to Christmas as far as the company’s volume of business, owner Angie McKinney said to her and the six part-time employees it’s “the most important time of year.”

“We think it’s the most important celebration because of our faith,” she said. “We’re excited about the Easter season.”

McKinney said many people come into the store to buy items for children’s Easter baskets, such as “resurrection eggs,” plastic eggs filled with items that help explain the resurrection story to children, and Christian activity books.

“It’s not about the bunny,” McKinney said. “By putting things that honor Christ in those [baskets], I think He’s pleased with that.”

The weeks leading up to Easter are also big for Bible sales and other children’s gifts, said McKinney, noting that denominations such as Catholics and Presbyterians often celebrate children’s first communion services in the spring.

Whether heading to church or just a family gathering, most people continue the tradition of buying new outfits for Easter, said Leslie Andert, ladies apparel sales team manager at Belk in Lakeland Plaza.

“Dresses are huge, shoes are huge, accessories are huge,” Andert said of the top sellers at this time of year. “Any dress clothing, church clothing for kids is huge, and then we have all our lightweight suits for men, which are also huge.”

Even in today’s high-tech, fast-paced world, tradition remains strong when it comes to Easter.

“We have families that come in every year to get their ham and their side items,” said Griffith, adding that the store will even have extra workers and extended hours to help families with their Easter meal plans.

Added Andert: “They get the handbag, they get the matching necklace, some people even go so far as to get a hat. There’s still that Southern charm tradition for Easter.”

McKinney said she’s proud to be a part of passing on the true meaning of the holiday to younger generations.

“While we’re technically a business, we really think of ourselves as a ministry,” she said. “This is the most important time of the year for us as Christians and we’re so happy to be a part of different families’ and churches’ traditions.”