More than 153 million US consumers set to observe Fourth of July holiday with a barbecue, cookout or picnic, according to National Retail Federation's Independence Day survey; consumers projected to spend nearly US$6.3B, or about US$68.16/household

HAMILTON, Ohio , July 3, 2014 () – The majority of American consumers are projected to celebrate Independence Day behind the grill or in front of the buffet.

More than 153 million consumers, nearly two-thirds of those celebrating, are set to observe the Fourth of July holiday with a barbecue, cookout or picnic, according to National Retail Federation's 2014 Independence Day Survey.

They're projected to spend nearly $6.3 billion -- about $68.16 per household -- on burgers, snacks and other food items for the national holiday.

Area retailers say this week is one of the busiest on their calendar.

The surge in Fourth of July sales at Luigi's Olde World Market in West Chester Twp. started on Monday and will continue until, and including, the holiday, according to owner Luigi Berardo.

Customers from Butler and Warren counties started calling as early as two weeks in advance to place their order, but about 70 percent phoned in their order this week, Berardo said.

"Some people go on the lake or go out of town or something and ... we spent all the day today (Tuesday) just preparing for a lot of the people who are just picking up and taking," Berardo said.

Sales at the store are projected to rise "at least 60 to 70 percent" on July 3 alone compared to a typical non-holiday eve Thursday, he said.

"For us, that's kind of low because we're open the next day, so some people don't feel they have to get in the day before," he said, noting Independence Day sales typically increase by 40 percent. "We do a tremendous business during the day (July 4)."

Hot-selling items at the market include hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, brats, metts, homemade sausages and custom-made "gourmet burgers" such as bacon-cheddar or A1-and-provolone burgers.

Bonnie Bowen stopped by Kroger in Liberty Twp. on Wednesday afternoon to stock up on burgers, steaks and beans, after previously shopping for hot dogs, pork ribs, fruit and vegetables.

Bowen said making sure there's plenty of good food at the table goes hand-in-hand with Independence Day.

"It's very important," she said. "That's just family time."

Kroger locations started gearing up for the holiday about a week in advance, rolling out special promotions to attract customers to every day specials, like ground chuck for $2.99 per pound, as well as holiday-centered sales on steak, chicken breasts and hot dogs, according to spokeswoman Rachael Betzler.

While the company declined to report how much of a boost the holiday provides to its barbecue-related fare, Betzler said "it's sometimes as big as Christmas week."

"I think a lot of people have family reunions, and there's just a lot more celebrating, and of course, you can do it outside," she said.

For Fourth of July shoppers who already have the food but are short on the items needed to prepare them, Rural King in Hamilton is stocked with everything from charcoal, lighters and matches to accessories, seasonings and the actual grills themselves, according to Sarah McGahee, assistant manager.

"(Sales increase) usually a couple of days before," McGahee said, noting that the percentage of that sales boost varies from year to year. "We do plan for it. It is a holiday. Any holiday we know we're going to have a jump (in sales), it's just the kind of thing that we look for."

While the NRF survey showed a majority of Americans -- 64 percent -- will spend the day around a picnic table, nearly 44 percent plan to attend a fireworks display or community celebration. Attending a parade ranked lower on people's plans, with only about 11.5 percent planning to view the holiday fanfare.

Plans for each of those activities declined from last year's survey, but an increasing number of celebrants are using the 3-day holiday weekend to their advantage. Those planning to take a vacation number 13.7 percent, the highest in the survey's history.

Only 11.5 percent said they would not celebrate the day, according to the survey.

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