Dictate your own Halloween fortune

October 20, 2009

Halloween is usually the harbinger of holiday season performance.

Halloween is usually the harbinger of holiday season performance. That’s what retailers are afraid of this year. The National Retail Federation has already forecast that consumers will spend $56.31 on average his Halloween, down from $66.54 last year when the worst of the economic tremors were still fresh.

We believe, however, that any poor performance running from Halloween through Christmas would be partly a self-fulfilling prophecy by retailers. Simply, if store operators believe the bad news will happen, they will not merchandise or promote to the fullest or engage shoppers with fun takes on the holiday. Their flat presentations and apathetic store staff would, in our opinion, ensure their dismal end-of-year period.

Much better would be unleashing a positive energy on the selling floor. Encourage staff to wear funny makeup or costumes. Play humorous announcements over the store’s audio system relative to the holiday. Create an event where customers parade their costumed pets in the parking lot, take pictures, and get prizes (pet treat samples).  

Most definitely, play up the family aspect of this time of year. Recognize that Halloween parties are taking the place of Trick or Treating in many places to help keep kids safer—especially with Halloween falling on a weekend in 2009. These parties translate into broader food and beverage sales opportunities to leverage. There is still time to sign and organize displays that group companion items for parties.

While the state of the economy, job insecurity and pressures to pay bills are indeed scary, stores can win if they fill the role of the uplifting source. The NRF predicts spending cutbacks across many kinds of customers on costumes, candy and decorations. That may well occur, but appealing stores can earn a disproportionate share of the holiday business.

We do think the NRF study conducted by BIG Research is realistic, but we also believe that standout stores can win. By contrast, an IBISWorld forecast that Halloween sales will set a record that exceeds $6 billion, up 4.2% from the $5.77 billion posted at Halloween 2008, seems overly optimistic. 

Our point is, whether the market grows or slows, when it comes to holidays, store performance is especially driven by initiative, attitude, energy and imagination. We say, go for it! Don’t let any ghoulish talk keep your Halloween from being sweet.