Retailers are expecting bumper chocolate sales for Easter after Covid-19 meant many Easter eggs and bunnies were left sitting on store shelves last year.
The throes of the coronavirus pandemic this time last year meant that all non-essential shops were forced to close their doors while supermarkets continued to operate and navigate a surge in demand.
This meant that Easter chocolate eggs and bunnies sat on shelves in hardware stores, department and discount stores, and other retail stores, unable to be sold. At the same time, supermarkets up and down the country ran out of stock ahead of the big day.
Retail NZ estimated that hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Easter eggs that sat on the shelves of closed stores went to waste last year. Many were donated to charities and food banks once lockdown restrictions eased, while others went on sale at a fraction of the price to clear the stock - a loss-making move for many businesses.
But retailers this week are expecting bumper sales. Greg Harford, chief executive of Retail NZ, a retail membership organisation, said the supply situation with chocolate eggs this year was looking good.
Supermarket giant Foodstuffs, which operates Pak'nSave, New World and Four Square chains, told the Herald it had no issues with Easter eggs and stores were in plentiful supply.
Mondelez International, the owner and manufacturer of Cadbury's, which supplies a large portion of Easter goods sold throughout the country, also confirmed it has not had any issues with supply this season.
Its Easter goods for the New Zealand market are manufactured in Melbourne.
With well-documented delays with the international supply chain, logistics and the Ports of Auckland, Harford said retailers would have no doubt put in their import orders well in advance to avoid hold-ups and issues with stock.
"Retailers have been planning for Easter for quite a long time. Easter eggs have been in the shops for quite a few weeks now," said Harford.
Easter was an important event in the retail calendar, and a broader range of goods for the occasion were coming to market each year, Harford told the Herald.
"Easter eggs are a big seller at this time of year," he said.
"We're seeing more suppliers coming into the market over time, and there are certainly more options than there were 10 years.
"Easter eggs have been a fixture of Kiwi life for decades and as the population has increased over the last 20-30 years we have certainly seen more interest in Easter eggs. Over the past five years there has been a steady increase in interest."
Sales figures from Nielsen show Kiwis spent $30.5m on Easter confectionery last year, up 4.4 per cent on the previous year, and $4.7m on loose eggs - an 18.3 per cent increase on 2019.
According to Stats NZ, annual chocolate imports to this country are worth $249.7 million, and exports $84.79m. This includes all kinds of chocolate, not just eggs and figurines.
Caroline Everitt, marketing and retail director at Auckland-based chocolate company Devonport Chocolates, said Easter was the business' second most important sales event of the year, after Christmas.
Easter typically makes up about 6 per cent of its annual sales, while Christmas makes up around 10 per cent. However, this year Easter sales are sitting around 11 per cent.
Last Easter the company like most retailers across the country were unable to open its stores and only permitted to sell their good online under alert level 3 restrictions.
Everitt said Easter sales typically increased year-on-year, and so far retail sales for Devonport Chocolates were 30 per cent ahead of this time last year.
"Easter ordinarily has a shorter lead time, but this year was a little bit longer as I think people were afraid of lockdowns and not being able to get product, so we did notice an increase in Easter sales online earlier than we normally would," said Everitt.
"We normally see sales ramp up four weeks out from Easter whereas this year it was really about six weeks out.
"I think people were wary of missing out because last year [in addition to lockdown] there was also a huge courier overload as well, so I think people wanted to make sure they had their Easter items early in case we went into lockdown."
Devonport Chocolates began preparing for Easter in January. It had taken a cautious approach to manufacturing volumes this year to be careful not to have excess stock but has recently been operating regular production runs to keep up with demand.
Last year Devonport Chocolates sold about 750kg of chocolate through Easter.