Retailers counting on the luck of the Irish

WASHINGTON -- With Easter falling in late April this year, retailers are without a major holiday to boost March sales, and many are expecting weaker sales this month. However, thanks to St. Patrick's Day, which falls on March 17, retailers have the help of this micro-holiday.

Total spending on St. Patrick’s Day festivities is expected to hit $4.14 billion this, according to NRF’s 2011 St. Patrick’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions survey, conducted by BIGresearch. The survey found that 52.4% of Americans will celebrate the Irish holiday, up from 45.2% last year and the most in the survey’s eight-year history.

“March is typically one of the slower months of the year in terms of consumer spending, but we expect this year’s celebration to provide a nice boost for companies who are in the business of promoting the holiday,” said Phil Rist, executive VP strategic initiatives, BIGresearch. “

In recent years, restaurants and bars have a upped the holiday spirit as well, hosting parties and serving green beverages. Thirty-eight million Americans (31.2%) will attend a party at a bar or restaurant -- also the highest in the survey’s history. Additionally, 41 million (33.9%) will make a special dinner, 31 million people (25.1%) will decorate their home or office and 23 million (19.1%) will attend a private party.

Though it is hard to rely solely on a survey that asks consumers' spending intentions long before the holiday arrives, based on early indications of St. Patrick's Day celebration, the revelers will be out in full force. This past Saturday, for example, the streets of Hoboken, N.J. were packed with young adults dressed in green to celebrate the tradition of Hoboken St. Patrick's Day. The actual St. Patrick's Day should also see a large number of celebrants, as more and more people -- Irish or not -- get into the holiday spirit.