Can ‘boo-bags’ save Halloween?

Discussion
Photo: Meijer
Oct 08, 2020
Matthew Stern

The retail world is anticipating a difficult Halloween season with fears of the novel coronavirus and mandates to social distance limiting both trick-or-treating for kids and parties for adults. Retailers, grocers and brands have, however, begun exploring creative strategies that could save the holiday.

Boo bags are a fairly new tradition that had been catching on before the novel coronavirus pandemic and some retailers and brands now see them as a source of hope for this year’s Halloween. A boo bag is a bag filled with candy and other Halloween-related items that one family leaves on the doorstep of another, accompanied by a note indicating that the recipient has been “booed” and must pass it along by “booing” other houses. Since there is no face-to-face contact required between boo-er and boo-ee when dropping off or picking up a boo bag, it limits the possibility of the transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Can ‘boo-bags’ save Halloween?
Photo: Meijer

Regional Midwest grocer Meijer has made the boo bag a central part of its Halloween strategy. The retailer has put up a “You’ve Been Booed” website featuring creative ideas for making boo bags and item lists shoppable via the store’s home delivery and curbside pickup services. Meijer has also posted two printable signs, one giving the instructions for “booing” to accompany the dropped-off boo bag and one to hang in the window indicating that a house has already been “booed” and does not need another bag.

CVS has also gotten involved in the concept, partnering with Hershey’s to deliver one million boo bags available for purchase through the drugstore chain’s locations and free with a pharmacy purchase, according to CNN. Target has engaged in a similar effort, giving away boo bag starter kits with its curbside pickup orders.

Betting on boo bags isn’t the only way retailers intend to help customers celebrate Halloween.

Lowe’s, for instance, is launching a curbside trick-or-treating event at all of its locations nationwide. Families can reserve a spot online, then drive by and pick up a free pumpkin and candy on one of the last two Thursdays in October.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think promoting boo bags, holding curbside trick-or-treating events and employing other creative Halloween-themed strategies will enable retailers to have a successful Halloween? What would you suggest for retailers that usually depend on business pegged to trick-or-treating to salvage the holiday?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Any activity you can drive is going to be good activity, as long as you're not creating a super-spreader event in the process."
"Boo to Boo bags. Good try, but it will not save Halloween for retailers. It will not even save Halloween for children."
"Look, it’s a great idea but — what happens TO THE CHILDREN when one neighbor decides it is all over for them, and stops passing bags?"

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13 Comments on "Can ‘boo-bags’ save Halloween?"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

There’s no doubt that retailers are being very creative and that shows the flexibility and alertness of many in our industry. However, while boo bags will drive some trade, the sad fact is that Halloween spend is going to be down over last year. Like a lot of things, the occasion has been disrupted by the virus and there is very little anyone can do to completely remedy that situation.

Bindu Gupta
BrainTrust

I love the idea of boo bags! As a mom, I know how excited my kids are for Halloween in the anticipation of the candy that they are going to collect and it was hard explaining to them why we won’t go trick-or-treating this year. With boo bags and curbside trick-or-treating events we can enjoy this holiday as safely as possible. However in the absence of parties and other holiday gatherings I do anticipate a slight decline in the Halloween sales compared to last year. In addition to boo bags, retailers can also look into home party bags for a virtual celebration. It’s not the same but we have to continue to get creative to enjoy these occasions.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Look, it’s a great idea but — what happens TO THE CHILDREN when one neighbor decides it is all over for them, and stops passing bags? And that can happen earlier in the afternoon. It is a great effort on behalf of the retailers, but I don’t think it will reach their desired projections. I hope I am wrong. I hate to see the little ones disappointed.

Nikki Baird
BrainTrust

Any activity you can drive is going to be good activity, as long as you’re not creating a super-spreader event in the process. I think the retailers who are going to have the least room to be creative are mall-based retailers – normally, not a bad place to take your kid, especially if the weather’s bad or you don’t have a good neighborhood to walk. This year, I don’t see that happening.

I’m intrigued by the fact that consumers are still spending strongly on Halloween, especially on candy. I suspect some families are making up for no trick-or-treating or parties with home celebrations. If I had young kids, I’d be tapping into Easter tricks to create Halloween candy hunts and craft activities and maybe watching a bunch of Halloween movies. Maybe even a costume fashion show to share with family. But not going out to a bunch of other people’s houses. That would be another way retailers could support families during another event trashed by COVID-19 – helping them create memorable experiences at home.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust
It’s a cute idea but no, I don’t think boo bags will save Halloween. Lowe’s idea sounds more fun and will likely get some face time with families after trick-or-treating, in whatever form it occurs. By the way, I’m not a fan of trunk-or-treat either. We spend a lifetime telling our kids not to go near strangers’ cars but then say, “This doesn’t count, it’s Halloween.” I live in the suburbs of Chicago where trick-or-treating will still occur but with new guidelines – and people are excited about it. Doorbell ringing is out, and you can’t leave buckets of candy on your porch on the honor system. The cool thing is people are getting creative and sharing ideas on socially distanced options on social media. Some of my favorites include driveway tables, clipping treats on clotheslines, drive-by distribution, leaving trails of candy throughout the yard, and taping candy to barbecue skewers and “planting” them in the yard for kids to “pick.” Retailers who share ideas like these in-store and via social media will be the… Read more »
Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

Boo bags have been around for more than 20 years in some neighborhoods. Relying on that isn’t going to save this holiday. Retailers need to accept that Halloween is going to be a letdown this year and plan for other ways to make up for the shortfall.

Meaghan Brophy
BrainTrust

I remember neighborhood boo bags from when I was a kid. It’s a smart idea, and will hopefully be a great way to drive community engagement and give families a little bit of fun. Curbside or appointment-based trick-or-treating and virtual costume contests will also help get kids and families into the spooky spirit.
In terms of sales, I’m not sure that will be enough to offset a retailer’s losses. Smaller and local retailers can try assembling and promoting activity and craft kits, or even Halloween-themed gift baskets. These items are higher margin and could appeal to the many families that will be home and looking to keep everyone busy on Halloween this year. However, it’s likely that many retailers’ Halloween sales will still be down from last year.

David Leibowitz
BrainTrust

“You’ve been booed” is fairly common in the ‘burbs, at least from what I’ve seen. Good fun and excitement for the kids in the lead up to Halloween.

Is this a possible proxy for Halloween? Possibly — if it’s a delivery. Net/net, it’s still a hand-off from a neighbor’s house to yours, so I’m not sure how much anxiety this alleviates.

Some other options exist. For example, Mars brand just launched a virtual trick-or-treat app called Treat Town. Something like that might work too.

At the end of the day, Halloween sales will be way down overall (events, confectionary, costumes). Retailers and CPGs will try their best to pivot and I hope they are successful. But if we take a step back, Halloween is likely the canary in the coalmine of what we may see in the Christmas holiday season.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

Boo bags and curbside trick-or-treating are very creative Halloween strategies for retailers. It probably will not save Halloween to the extent of being the huge business opportunity it has been, but the virus is affecting everything, and these strategies will help keep up the Halloween spirit and business as much as is possible. As for what the retailers should do, they should think through and create Halloween ideas like boo bags where the holiday spirit can be kept alive for their customers yet allow for social distancing.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

These days, you have to be innovative to keep the business going. This is yet another idea to help do just that.

Lee Kent
Guest

If retailers want to salvage the holiday, they need to give the children and families what they want and that is not all about the goodies. For children and families it is even more so about the costumes and showing themselves off to friends, neighbors and family. They want everyone to ooh and ahh and awe them. The candy comes next. I really don’t think driving by inside your car to pick up candy etc is even close.

Now if neighborhoods could create a safe space where the kids could walk by everyone, keeping their distance and have people clap etc, that kind of parade with the usual goodies along the way could make a great alternative. Or have retailers/malls open a space in their parking lots? But I really think most children like showing off best to their own friends and not strangers. Guess I need to keep my thinking cap on. For my 2 cents.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

Boo to Boo bags. Good try, but it will not save Halloween for retailers. It will not even save Halloween for children. If possible, backyard candy hunts for people who live in a neighborhood where that is possible.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Any idea that promotes the Halloween theme is a good idea for children, their parents and retailers. This is a tough time for everyone and with the specter of COVID-19 hovering around us this is an especially haunting holiday (sorry, couldn’t resist). This is cocooning time so home themed Zoom parties will be the norm with perhaps some scavenger hunts and prizes awarded. It’s time for retailers and parents to get creative and make this stay at home Halloween truly special.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Any activity you can drive is going to be good activity, as long as you're not creating a super-spreader event in the process."
"Boo to Boo bags. Good try, but it will not save Halloween for retailers. It will not even save Halloween for children."
"Look, it’s a great idea but — what happens TO THE CHILDREN when one neighbor decides it is all over for them, and stops passing bags?"

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