Is the Halloween retail opportunity becoming less scary?

Discussion
Photo: @Exit10photography via Twenty20
Sep 30, 2020
Tom Ryan

Party City last week announced plans to open 25 Halloween City stores, down from 255 in 2019. In September, Spirit Halloween revealed plans to open about 1,400 pop-ups, three percent higher than last year.

The difference reflects wide uncertainty regarding Halloween selling this year as Americans seek alternatives to traditional activities that will be hit with restrictions due to pandemic concerns.

The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual Halloween survey found more than three-quarters of Americans saying COVID-19 is impacting their Halloween celebration plans, with planned participation down to 58 percent from 68 percent in 2019.

Overall consumer spending, however, is only expected to decline 8.3 percent as consumers participating expect to spend $92.12 on average, up from $86.27 last year. Among those celebrants, safe at-home activities ranked highest: 53 percent plan to decorate their homes, 46 percent plan to carve a pumpkin and 18 percent will dress up their pet.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to see Halloween this year and we are expecting it to be comparable with last year in terms of the retailer’s business,” Steven Silverstein, president of Spencer Gifts, the owner of Spirit Halloween, told Forbes. “But of course it’s going to be different, we’re spending a lot more time in our homes and a large component of Halloween this year is going to be celebrated at home.”

Some safer activities being promoted in articles include home decorating contests, drive-by trick-or-treating, car parades and virtual costume contests.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week included in its list of moderate-risk activities: small, socially-distanced outdoor, open-air costume parades; outdoor movie nights; open-air haunted forests; and pumpkin patches or apple orchards.

Halloween2020.org, an ambitious effort from the Halloween & Costume Association, Hershey’s, Spirit Halloween, NRF and others, offers an interactive map detailing COVID-19 risks across counties, based on a seven-day average. The map indicates by color the risk of Halloween activities in each county.

Participation also may benefit from Halloween falling on a Saturday and pent-up demand for “fun” after enduring a pandemic. Katie Thomas, at Kearney Consumer Institute, told NPR, “It’s been a long, hot summer. Everyone’s been cooped up in the house, so people are looking for something to celebrate.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Which Halloween categories will likely do better versus worse than usual due to the COVID-19 adjustments to the season? Have the alternative activities being planned made you more optimistic or less about the retail industry’s prospects for Halloween than you were a month or two ago?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Halloween is all about fun and we are resilient. 2020 has been affected by the pandemic but I believe Halloween will make a comeback next year when this thing is over."
"I believe Halloween will be a success for retailers with home decorating both inside and out leading the way."
"Halloween is on Saturday this year — that adds a multiplier, especially for adult categories. I think that might offset any COVID-19 impact."

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16 Comments on "Is the Halloween retail opportunity becoming less scary?"


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David Naumann
BrainTrust
David Naumann
CEO and President, Cogent Creative Consulting
1 month 28 days ago

Halloween decorations for homes will fare better than costumes, as with social distancing we will see less public events and trick or treating will be canceled or curtailed in many communities. Halloween retail sales will definitely be hurt by the pandemic, but hopefully some alternative at home holiday celebrations will help offset the reduction in public parties.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I think the candy category will see a slight increase this year. CDC has recommended against trick or treating, but candy is always a safe category to put your bets on. I have seen a slight uptick in decoration as well which also makes sense especially if you have been working from home during the pandemic.

Kenneth Leung
BrainTrust

I think it depends on the kind of candy. Adults recently have been buying more candy for self indulgence and Halloween is more “I will buy extra candy that I want to eat afterwards and give out the stuff I don’t like.” I think certain categories like candy corn will decline while chocolates will increase.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Halloween will be a more subdued affair this year than last. Inventory levels in retailers like Target are visibly lower than normal, which reflects the general expectation that sales volumes will be reduced. From our surveys and forecasts the impact across categories is not even. Candy sales will hold up relatively well as consumers will still treat themselves and their families, even if there is less trick-or-treating. Home decor will be somewhat flat. However sales of costume and party accessories will be down because there are fewer Halloween related social occasions than last year. From a channel perspective, more of the spoils will go to the mass merchants because they are convenient and offer value for money – this continues the trend seen over recent years.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

I think we will see activity fairly equally depressed across the board. Families with kids are still going to want to see them costumed up for grandparents, Facebook posts and Zoom chats. At least 50 percent of the Halloween candy purchases are for in-home consumption anyway. Parents aren’t going to want to see those aspects of the night diminished for their kids even if they don’t go out trick-or-treating. There may be a bigger hit to adult costuming and parties as those are more social gatherings. But overall people who hate to buy candy for Halloween won’t this year and everyone who loves the event will — depressing things across the board.

Bindu Gupta
BrainTrust

As a mom and a marketer, I anticipate increased spending on Halloween decorations and treats as parents want to make it special for the kids who cannot go traditional trick-or-treating and I also anticipate similar spending on costumes as last year with an uptick in family costumes.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

This year, most Halloween categories face decline including costumes, candy and beauty. Yet our new homebody lifestyle will benefit grocery, pet costumes and decorations as we welcome reasons to celebrate.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Halloween has traditionally been the second largest retail holiday and this year was supposed to be a big deal: Halloween Saturday Night! The perfect day of the week to celebrate. At the Halloween & Party Expo and HauntCon this past January Halloween retailers and suppliers were excited for a big night.

But the pandemic changed all of that, now people in some communities are not even sure if trick-or-treating will actually happen. It will in my town and I will be out there in costume with my grandkids safely visiting neighbors’ homes.

Halloween decor pickings in stores I have visited have been slim; we are decorating more at home because it’s a safe way to celebrate. I have friends who have created new ways to safely greet trick-or-treaters and offer candy without them having to ring the doorbell.

Halloween is all about fun and we are resilient. 2020 has been affected by the pandemic but I believe Halloween will make a comeback next year when this thing is over.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

I believe Halloween will be a success for retailers with home decorating both inside and out leading the way. People need to celebrate something in these dark times so why not break out on Halloween this year? Zoom will be featured prominently as well and may just start a new holiday tradition that will live on forever.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Thinking out loud: Has the pandemic changed our personal values and priorities in such a way that holidays will no longer have that “over-the-top” focus?

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I don’t think the pandemic has changed our personal values or overall view of the holidays, it’s just a little tougher this year because we always be together. Maybe that over-the-top focus has moved from shopping to family?

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Yes, by “over-the-top” focus I meant a restructuring of values from shopping to family and friends.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Gotcha! Great minds, right? 🙂

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

This has been a unique year for prognosticating retail performance.
My gut is that categories like adult costumes and candy will be down, while home decoration and kids costume will be even or show some gains. But Halloween is on Saturday this year — that adds a multiplier, especially for adult categories. I think that might offset any COVID-19 impact.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

So a decline of “only” 8% is … “comparable”? At least we can’t fault Mr. Silverstein for complaining. Opinions will differ about how much risk traditional activities present. I’m left with the uncomfortable feeling that we’ll end up instead with the ones (indoor parties) that are actually MORE risky. But regardless, I see little changed from a month or two ago (and compared to, say, six months ago, I think things are worse … as we expected something resembling normalcy by now).

Scott Norris
Guest

The Halloween2020 interactive map is a better data-visualization resource than most local and national media outlets, and does a good job displaying which counties are doing a bad job at testing and reporting, especially here in the Upper Midwest. (If you’re a green dot surrounded by red, that doesn’t mean you’re safe.)

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Halloween is all about fun and we are resilient. 2020 has been affected by the pandemic but I believe Halloween will make a comeback next year when this thing is over."
"I believe Halloween will be a success for retailers with home decorating both inside and out leading the way."
"Halloween is on Saturday this year — that adds a multiplier, especially for adult categories. I think that might offset any COVID-19 impact."

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