Halloween Firms Face Up To A Pandemic Fright

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Halloween Firms Face Up To A Pandemic Fright

For UK fancy-dress costume business Smiffys, which ships 26 million items every year, Halloween is one of their busiest seasons.

But, as to be expected, Halloween 2020 is going to look a lot different from any other it has faced. They knew they had to adapt.

“We always planned for the likelihood that the coronavirus would be around for October, and indeed the whole of this year,” says Dominique Peckett, director of Smiffys.

There are different regulations in place in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, about what is allowed or prohibited this year.

In the past weeks, Smiffys has been promoting a key message to its retail partners and consumers: Bring the Party Home.

Ms Peckett adds: “[We want] people to get into the mindset that Halloween and other events are not cancelled; they just must be celebrated and embraced in a slightly different way this year.”

Smiffys is on track to achieve 70% of 2019’s Halloween sales, but it should be noted most of their Halloween sales are pre-sold to retailers and delivered before the event.

Bittersweet

From sweets distributors to fancy-dress shops to massive parades, several sectors have had to respond and adapt to a chilly, pandemic-stricken, Halloween season.

The first thing to know from an industry perspective is that Halloween isn’t just 31 October, but a season.

“I believe parents are seeking a sense of normalcy for themselves and their children,” says Phil DeConto, vice-president of category management and shopper insights at Ferrero USA.

He also says their e-commerce sales exploded during the pandemic, encouraging them to upgrade online advertising alongside their usual in-store promotions.

The sweets business booms during the Halloween season. In the US, this season annually accounts for approximately $4.6bn (£3.5bn) in sales in the eight weeks before Halloween according to the National Confectioners Association.

For Canada, that figure hit $550m Canadian dollars (£315m) in 2017. And in the UK, the Halloween season is worth £427m, which includes sweets, pumpkins and baked goods, according to industry reports.

But UK retailers might not know the health of their sweets sales until after 31 October.

“We do not expect trick or treating to take place in parts of the country affected by more stringent lockdowns,” notes Andrew Goodacre, boss of the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira).

“The problem for retailers is that Halloween stock is often ordered well in advance of the actual date so many could be left with unsold stock.”

He adds that the UK saw only around 80% of independent retailers in general, and not just sweets shops, re-open after the initial lockdowns were lifted, which may help with online sales but could hurt walk-in traffic.

Family advice

At Smiffys, Ms Peckett is optimistic their fancy-dress sales won’t be hurt too badly by the pandemic.

“There appears to be so much pent-up demand for people to celebrate an event this year after virtually every festival, hen and stag party, and sporting event, has been cancelled since the end of March,” she says.

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In the US, Halloween spending is expected to drop by 8% to $8.05bn, with costume sales accounting for much of the decline, according to the National Retail Federation.

Playing a role is guidance from federal and state-level officials on how to celebrate Halloween this year.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised families to restrict contact between trick-or-treaters, and suggested households set up a bowl of wrapped candies on their doorstep.

Also, regions such as Los Angeles County and El Paso County have banned Halloween parties and haunted house attractions.

Courtland Hickey, general manager of 40-year-old Chicago Costume, expects his store to take 30% of their usual sales this year.

Halloween Firms Face Up To A Pandemic Fright

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