Unexpectedly, this Halloween could expand beyond candy

Articles
October 17, 2008

Unexpectedly, this Halloween could expand beyond candy

This Halloween looks scarier for parents than children. Yet our nation’s economic distress could create an opportunity to expand the holiday’s sales, despite surveys projecting a consumer pullback on Halloween spending. Our different take comes from our sense that America’s households might turn Oct. 31 into a perfect excuse for family-centered activities—a short emotional shelter from everything that makes them skittish (investments, jobs, the election), and an opportunity to reassure kids they can still have fun and feel secure even in tough times.

This Halloween looks scarier for parents than children. Yet our nation’s economic distress could create an opportunity to expand the holiday’s sales, despite surveys projecting a consumer pullback on Halloween spending.

Our different take comes from our sense that America’s households might turn Oct. 31 into a perfect excuse for family-centered activities—a short emotional shelter from everything that makes them skittish (investments, jobs, the election), and an opportunity to reassure kids they can still have fun and feel secure even in tough times.

Think beyond candy to include fun meals (pizza, chicken fingers), games, movie rentals, cookies, paper goods, makeup, picture-taking, home-made costumes and home parties to keep kids safe from strangers’ handouts and rogue trick-or-treaters.

Certainly, core spending on chocolate candy may not impress versus last year.  

Nielsen data show that chocolate candy sales did gain around Halloween time in each of the past few years—from $240.3 million in the four weeks ended November 5, 2005 period, to $274.9 million in the 2006 period, to $291.9 million at the 2007 holiday. Yet the rate of chocolate candy growth clearly flattened by half in the latest of the three years.  This suggests even smaller gains this Halloween because spending is tighter. And this trend could signal what’s to come for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

(Chocolate candy is the largest segment in the category, as defined by Nielsen. It doesn’t include chocolate miniatures, chocolate special or dietetic special, whose holiday sales patterns largely echo those of chocolate candy, as well as those of non-chocolate candy and lollipops.)

And in a TNS Retail Forward survey, 29% of respondents said they plan to cut back on their Halloween spend, more than the 21% who said so last year, and the 17% in 2006.

But with families looking to one another for comfort, SG believes it’s entirely possible that they’ll include more categories in their Halloween approach if they keep it a family affair. It may be just the tonic for grown-ups who can no longer afford a home improvement, but at the same time feel they can ill afford not to build happy memories.

By thinking more broadly about this Halloween holiday, and understanding the new emotional purchase drivers, retailers and brand marketers could leverage a wider menu of Halloween buying.