How PetSmart, Home Depot, Hershey Are Boning Up

There Is More To Halloween Than Costumes And Candy

If retailers want to test new and unexpected Halloween categories, this is the year to do so. Overall spending this Halloween is predicted to decline as many Americans skip haunted houses, costume parties and other group activities that require festive décor, packaged treats and ghoulish rubber masks.

But their alternate choices for celebration will require some level of spending, as well. Yes, candy is selling, as are some costumes, but because they will be presented in a different way, different considerations should be applied to their retail marketing, as well as to potential market opportunities.

These 7 Survey Findings Shouldn’t Scare Retailers

Seven months into the pandemic, retailers have grown accustomed to battling what they can’t see. The findings from these various consumer surveys at least provide forecasts that should help merchandisers and marketers scare up new ways to approach the enduring holiday.

  1. Fewer grownups are treating themselves. Overall participation in Halloween is projected to be down to 58% of adults, from 68% in 2019, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics. Those who do celebrate will do so differently, such as with outdoor parties.
  2. Few are trading screams for screens. Plans for traditional activities such as trick-or-treating are down, but consumers aren’t all migrating to online gatherings, either. Just 17% of respondents plan to celebrate virtually, the NRF reports.
  3. And there will be virtually less spending: Those who are celebrating plan to spend roughly $92 on average, compared with $86 in 2019. However, with fewer people participating in the holiday, the overall spending projections are down – $8.05 billion, from $8.78 billion in 2019.
  4. But the kids will be alright. Nearly 75% of young parents said Halloween is more important this year, and 90% can’t imagine Halloween without chocolate, according to the National Confectioners Association. From mid-March to August, chocolate sales were up nearly 4.5%, accelerating a trend already seen as people move to go to “feel good” moments.
  5. There will be fewer “spooky” candy packs. Candy makers are cutting back on Halloween-specific packaging and in some cases extending the shopping season, according to a report by CNN Business. But don’t panic – those easy-to-sneak “fun size” candies aren’t going away. They sell too well at a time when people seek small pleasures.
  6. Young adults are haunting the aisles. Shoppers who are 18 to 24 are more likely to celebrate Halloween this year, the NRF research shows. Further, they plan to spend $11 more this year than last, largely on decorations and candy.
  7. The pets won’t escape. Among the different ways consumers plan to celebrate Halloween is by including their pets. In 2020, 18% of pet owners plan to dress up their companions, from 17% in 2019, the NRF research shows. Most pets – 10% – will turn into pumpkins.

Let’s Unmask This Halloween’s Opportunities

Which retailers are rising to the occasion these findings present? Here are some best-practice takeaways in play now.

Getting into the spirit of safety. By partnering with the Harvard Global Health Institute, the Hershey Co. helped create a color-coded pandemic map that details COVID-19 risk levels by county. The site, called “Make it Safe,” also suggests celebrations, such as trick-or-treating with masks on in low-risk areas and candy hunts at homes in high-risk areas. Parents and consumers gain confidence in a respected source (Harvard) and likely gain trust in Hershey, which could play out in candy aisle purchases. Target
is among retailers selling teal pumpkins and related products to support the Teal Pumpkin Project, which encourages giving non-food treats to kids with food allergies. Combined, these efforts build consumer reassurance and confidence to return to a sense of normalcy and carry on.

Taking risks, and not overlooking small opportunities. Retailers have learned in this pandemic that acting fast on new marketing strategies can pay off. This may be why Dunkin’ Donuts is partnering with specialty retailer Spirit Halloween to launch its first licensed Dunkin’ coffee cup and donut costumes ($39.99; roughly the price of three dozen donuts and three medium coffees). And in the pet costume category, where Americans spent $490 million in 2019, PetSmart launched a lineup for guinea pigs, $6.99 each, that include a lobster, mermaid, unicorn and hot dog. PetSmart’s “Thrills & Chills” line also offers spooky décor for the aquarium, including zombie crabs.

Haunting the house, and porch. If 18- to 24-year-olds are more likely to celebrate Halloween with candy and decorations, as the NRF forecasts, these purchases will likely be for parties. Nearly half of 18- to 28-year-olds partied on Halloween in 2019, according to the brand consultant Collage Group. This year, those decorations should include items for the front porch and balcony, which many are converting into fresh-air living rooms. PartyCity dedicates an online page specifically to Halloween porch ideas, including skeletons in rocking chairs and a table-top display of body parts. And Home Depot’s
12-foot skeleton ($300) sold out online.

Masquerading other holidays into the mix. Because the next few months remain a question mark, retailers and brands would benefit from taking advantage of any shopper activity and display creative Christmas and related gift-giving ideas. The National Retail Federation’s 2020 holiday campaign, called “New Holiday Traditions” is evidence of this opportunity. The campaign, launched Sept. 29, encourages consumers to shop early and “avoid the last-minute stresses of the holiday season like long lines and shipping delays.” QVC
isn’t masking its efforts: It is marketing mini candy corn trees that light up (and look) much like Christmas trees.

Here’s The Fun-Size Takeaway

Less spending on traditional Halloween categories does not mean less spending, period. This holiday can be a vehicle to any category destination. Retailers and brands should use the opportunity to sell whatever consumers are likely interested in, from candy bars to toaster ovens, but do it now.

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