Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Halloween Again!

It’s back! It’s bigger than ever! And it’s coming for your retail dollars!

It’s Halloween, the juggernaut holiday that’s been growing like an atomic-radiated insect in a fifties horror movie. The growth of this formerly second-tier holiday is apparently unstoppable, as is the spending on costumes, masks, decorations, pumpkins, parties, pranks, and as we say in marketing, much, much more! In my own home, the level of decoration has reached an all-time high, and apparently isn’t over yet (a Halloween tree? Really?).

We’re also finding new ways to celebrate Halloween. One newly-established practice I’ve just learned about is called Trunk-or-Treat, in which people park their cars side by side, decorate their open trunks, and give out candy to costumed kids going “trunk to trunk”. The decorations can be surprisingly elaborate, and some venues offer prizes for the best-decorated trunk. It’s become popular at churches and schools, and some shopping centers (a center we manage near Pittsburgh is hosting just such an event; check it out at mtnebopointe.com). It’s a whole new Halloween.

Of course, from a retail real estate perspective, ‘tis the season for temporary stores, a very welcome late-year gift to many landlords that keeps on giving from late August through New Year’s Day. Spirit Halloween alone has over 1,000 locations open across the country right now, ready to rake in shopper dollars on spooky celebration stuff.

Speaking of which, as we do every year at this time (well, most years), let’s look at a few numbers from our friends at the National Retail Federation (who seem to particularly enjoy Halloween) and their 2012 Halloween consumer spending survey conducted by BIGinsight):

A record 170 million people, or 7 in 10 Americans (71.5%) plan to celebrate Halloween this year, up from 68.6% last year - the most in the NRF’s 10-year survey history (side note: Canadians, always more modest then we, plan to spend an average of $75 on Halloween, according to the Retail Council of Canada)

The average person will spend $79.82 on decorations, costumes and candy, up from $72.31 last year, with total Halloween spending expected to reach $8 billion (note: in the very first Halloween piece I wrote for this publication, in October 2003, Halloween sales were projected at $7 billion)

Of people celebrating Halloween this year, more than half (51.4%) will decorate their home or yard, up from 49.5% last year

45.0% plan to dress in costume, also up from last year (43.9%)

Of those buying or making costumes, the average person will spend $28.65 on costumes this year, up slightly from $26.52 in 2011

More than one-third (36.2%) will throw or attend a party and 33.2% will take children trick-or-treating

Despite record spending figures, 25.9% of US consumers say the economy will impact their Halloween plans - most say they will spend less overall (83.5%), while others will make a costume instead of buying one (18.0%), and over one-third (36.1%) will buy less candy (note: Kathy Grannis of the National Retail Federation notes that "People overall are feeling a little bit better about their finances", adding that that the rise in Halloween spending mirrors other positive signs of consumer behavior)

It’s important to note, however, that despite those positive comments, the NRF expects Holiday retail sales to be flat or increase only marginally (still, they’re projected at $586 billion).

And what are the popular costumes and/or masks this year? Well, it is an election year, which is a prospect that’s much more frightening to many people than any Halloween horror story. Naturally Mitt Romney and Barack Obama masks are big hits, but there’s one costume that’s really taking off in popularity due to the election, or more specifically due to the first presidential debate, and even more specifically, the Republican candidate’s remarks about proposed cuts to federal spending for PBS: in response to his new status as an endangered avian species, Big Bird costumes are flying off the shelves of party and Halloween stores nationwide.

Finally, in a bit of positive local economic news, a summer dry spell followed by rains has resulted in a bumper crop of pumpkins for Massachusetts growers. Happy Halloween!
Chris Cardoni, Marketing Manager
CCardoni@KeyPointPartners.com

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