Let’s keep Halloween sweet

October 18, 2012

Keep the fun spirit of the holiday in stores and find gentle ways to minimize markdowns on overbought candies.

Candy brands and retailers love selling Halloween candy early because people find it so hard to resist at home. Many households inevitably wind up replenishing their sugary stash one or more times.

But shoppers better keep their calendars in order—because once the holiday ends, merchandising turns to Thanksgiving. If they overestimate the number of trick or treaters coming to their door, they’re stuck with the excess. The Lempert Report already sees supermarkets posting signs that they won’t accept returns after October 31.  

Sure, no one wants markdowns. But is it fair that food stores entice people to buy abundantly without a safety net? Shoppers uncomfortable with this dictate just might see it as another reason to take their trips elsewhere. We offer two more artful suggestions to retailers:  Offer a store credit for merchandise returned within two days of the holiday. Or set up bins at the store where people could bring back their candies for donation to local food banks and shelters. At least they’ll feel good and will be glad the store organized the effort. Either way, shoppers get no cash back, but they my just wheel a cart through the aisles and make more purchases.

To minimize markdowns this year, Hershey’s seasonal packages will show more leaves and autumn colors and fewer ghosts and goblins, reports The Wall Street Journal. In our view, this is a smart way to help manage inventory and prices during the sweetest season of the year for candy sales. The average consumer will spend $24.25 on Halloween candy this year, up by $2.25 from 2011, the National Retail Federation says, noting that 170 million people in all will spend $8 billion on the 2012 holiday. That’s $79.82 on candy, costumes, decorations and cards.

According to IBISWorld, the segment gains will be:  12.2% annual growth over 2011 to $2.87 billion on costumes; 2.0% to $2.35 billion on candy; 23.7% to $2.36 billion on decorations; 10.7% to $440 million on cards.

To us, Halloween is more important than the single day for supermarkets. It builds momentum for the holiday season ahead and, done well, can position stores as a go-to celebration destination. They need to attract shoppers in the face of creative competition from pop-up shops, party goods chains, and other specialty operators—and not make them think twice before buying a few bags of candy.