Will COVID-19 bludgeon Halloween sales?
Only 27 percent of U.S. adults anticipate seeing kids trick-or-treat on October 31, according to a Harris Poll taken in mid-July. Yet neither Hershey, Mars Wrigley nor Spirit Halloween are giving up on Halloween, retail’s third biggest shopping holiday.
Hershey has shifted some products from Halloween-themed packaging to “more everyday” in case sales come up short due to a resurgence of coronavirus cases. The brand, however, doesn’t currently expect a seasonal impact in the back half from COVID-19, Michele Buck, CEO, told analysts last week.
Trick-or-treating only makes up about half of Hershey’s Halloween candy sales, with the rest representing products that consumers buy for themselves or their families.
Ms. Buck said she also has gained confidence from a “pretty decent” Easter and advanced Halloween orders. Most retailers “are continuing to lean in to anticipate and drive to a very strong Halloween.”
Finally, she added, “We also think that consumers will find creative and safe ways to trick-or-treat. It is an outdoor event, and it’s an event where a lot of masks are already worn. There is no evidence of the virus being passed through packaging or food. So, we feel pretty good based on what we’re seeing so far from consumer feedback.”
Should trick-or-treat sales trend below expectations, Hershey will focus more on “the treat for me and the candy ball occasion” for homes.
Mars Wrigley is planning more conservatively for Halloween and making sure it has “the right range, in the right quantities, available digitally by each banner and retailer that we do business with,” Tim LeBel, president of sales for Mars Wrigley, told Advertising Age in early July.
But he was “very optimistic” that kids would either be trick-or-treating or “trunk-or-treating,” an alternative version developed over the last decade that sees kids fetching candy from vehicle to vehicle in a parking lot under parental watch.
Also bullish is Spirit Halloween, the largest U.S. Halloween store franchise. In response to rumors stores wouldn’t be opening, Spirit Halloween in late June shared in a tweet along with a photo a hazmat suit costume, “We are safely preparing the best in-store experience possible & can’t wait to welcome you back at our 1,400 locations.”
- COVID-19 Pandemic Could Scare Off Halloween Trick-or-Treaters – The Harris Poll
- Hershey Reports Second-quarter 2020 Financial Results; Provides 2020 Business Update – Hershey
- Hershey Q220 Earnings Conference Call – Yahoo Finance
- Hershey Braces for Halloween Hit From Coronavirus – The Wall Street Journal
- Mars Wrigley Chief Halloween Officer Tim Lebel Dishes On This Year’s Holiday Planning – Advertising Age
- Don’t Worry We Got This – Spirit Halloween/Twitter
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will the COVID-19 crisis likely have a minor or major impact on Halloween’s retail spend? What adjustments or programs can retailers or brands come up with to stoke demand?