Shoppers look for clothes at Marshall Field’s flagship store in Chicago, Ill. Easter is traditionally a lucrative retail holiday for apparel stores. (Left Photo)

   With store shelves full of chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks, Easter is traditionally one of the busiest shopping holidays of the year. It’s also a boon for apparel retailers, but this year many consumers might be dusting off last year’s fashions when it comes to dressing up in their Sunday best.

  The culprit is the chill of an early Easter experts say. This year’s holiday falls earlier than it has in over 15 years, and as a result experts expect American consumers to spend nearly $1 billion less on their Easter spending sprees.

  While the same number of Americans who celebrated Easter last year expect to celebrate it this year — about 76 percent — those consumers will be spending less on average, reducing total Easter spending to $9.6 billion from $10.5 billion a year ago according to the NRF’s 2005 Easter Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted earlier this month.

  What’s more, unseasonably cold spring weather in some parts of the country coupled with the psychological impact of a spike in gasoline prices has left consumers less inclined to splash out on new lines of warm-weather clothing.