Halloween 2011 goal: build smiles!

October 11, 2011

Why are food stores so stuck on candy for Halloween, when there's opportunity to sell and celebrate with many more foods and decorations?

The nature of Halloween has changed in recent years – but supermarkets largely stick to their classic reliance on candy sales.

Big mistake, we think at The Lempert Report. Why?

Plenty of moms and dads don’t want their kids trick or treating; they’d rather have them supervised in home parties with friends, and with a wider variety of food and snack choices besides chocolate. So supermarkets need to merchandise this ‘holiday’ as a family or community event – with healthful produce cut into fun shapes; candied and caramel apples; with s’mores, cookie and cake mixes for mom-and-child cooking; with kid-friendly dishes made of peanut butter, or mac and cheese with festive-colored beans, salsa, turkey strips and other simple creations. Also think of half-pints of bottled water and aseptic packs of juice.

Kids can have food fun, along with shared activities (cooking, games) in a safe environment, and that sounds appealing to many households each year.

Halloween has become more about the fun of the day than the sugar bounty. The sooner supermarkets tap into other revenue streams, the better. Decorations, colorful novelties (rubber eyeballs, etc.), small-favors bags, costumes and even dress-up paraphernalia for dogs, along with photo supplies and photofinishing promotions to capture these moments are more in line with how consumers plan to spend the day. “Eager to shake off the summer heat and forget about the economy for a few days, Americans are looking forward to having some fun this Halloween,” said National Retail Federation (NRF) president and CEO Matthew Shay.

If Halloween 2011 will provide an emotional release, food stores could benefit. According to the latest NRF survey conducted by BIGresearch, 161 million people plan to celebrate Halloween, up from 64% a year ago and the most in the survey’s nine-year history.  

Celebrants expect to spend $72.31 on decorations, costumes and candy, up from $66.28 last year – and reach nearly $6.9 billion. More people will dress in costume (44% vs. 40% last year), throw or attend a party (34% vs. 33%), and visit a haunted house (23% vs. 21%).  Also, half (50%) will decorate their home and yard, and 15% will dress their pets in costume.   Just one-third of survey respondents said they would take their children trick-or-treating.

Supermarkets that make Halloween about fun rather than gorging on candy will take their first public steps toward helping families lower their sugar intake – in the process, they’ll reinforce relationships and show a responsibility. Stores that conceive fun events can appeal to teens and adult Halloween fans as well. How about having people check-in on Foursquare in costume with smartphones? People can take pictures for posting to the store’s Halloween Facebook page (as well as their own page), and share some laughs.  

It’s all about smiles, not scares, this Halloween!