Make Halloween about fun, not price

Articles
October 15, 2010

Make Halloween about fun, not price

In these still scary times for food retailers, what can they do to take the ‘BOO’ out of Halloween and chase the ghosts of price-driven holidays past from their stores?

In these still scary times for food retailers, what can they do to take the ‘BOO’ out of Halloween and chase the ghosts of price-driven holidays past from their stores?

It may not be easy, given a few concurrent trends:

  • Less trick or treating in favor of, gasp, nothing, or safe and secure home parties to protect kids from unkind actions by strangers who taint ‘treats.’
  • A low-price orientation by retailers and CPG brands because consumers remain stingy around a holiday some feel is optional.  This is the third straight Halloween where discounts prevail rather than high-spirited fun.   Halloween pop-up stores abound, but party stores offer deep savings, and walks through supermarkets show value prices and early sales on lay-down bags of chocolates. Even General Mills told The New York Times that its three monster cereals – Boo Berry, Count Chocula and Franken Berry – are on sale for $2.50 each at Target for a full month leading up to Halloween day.

But there’s hope retail performance won’t be too frightening. Some 148 million Americans intend to celebrate the day and spend $66.28 on costumes, candy and decorations, up from $56.31 in 2009 and comparable with the $66.54 average spend in 2008, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2010 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch.

Of that average spend, $20.29 will be on candy, $18.66 on decorations, $3.95 on greeting cards, and $23.37 on costumes, NRF projected.  Still, 45.1% of respondents said they will buy less candy for Halloween 2010.

Nevertheless, supermarkets have opportunities to move consumer messaging away from price and towards fun. For example:

  • Since NRF says 40.1% of Americans – the highest percentage in the survey’s history – will don costumes, and 11.5% will dress up their pets, The Lempert Report suggests a supermarket runway preview event on a slow Monday or Tuesday night before the holiday arrives. So much the better if endcaps display treats for people, dogs and cats, and dress-up accessories.
  • In stores with seating – perhaps in a dining area – schedule a Halloween book read-aloud session, perhaps with a guest appearance by a popular local grade school teacher in late afternoon. Sample some new candies and treats, and display bags nearby.

Local flourishes could make a big difference this holiday. There’s still time to lighten the shopping mood and keep the recession goblins at bay.