Halloween: The New Christmas for Retailers


The retail industry has traditionally depended on the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s to make a large portion — the lion’s share, in fact — of its yearly sales. However, the last few holiday seasons were disappointments for anyone involved in retail, not to mention the economy as a whole — and despite some optimism for the 2010 holiday season, the outlook for this year is bleak.

So companies are turning to a new strategy to drive sales: Turn Halloween into the new Christmas.

“[Halloween] is basically a precursor to Christmas,” Suzanne Long, director of consulting firm SSA & Co., told The Birmingham News. “It’s the biggest opportunity that retailers have between back-to-school and the holidays to boost their sales.” And stores large and small are taking this fact to heart, tripling their efforts to drive promotions and sales on the backs of ghouls and goblins. The discounts are by no means limited to candy: Stores are also pushing clothing, groceries, costumes, and home decor — and working as hard as they can to convince customers to spend.

A few of Simon Doonan’s costumes for Target, including “Lil Diva Witch”, “Meatball”, and “Candace Corn.” Photos via Target.com.

The redoubled efforts include heavy discounting and other purchase incentives. Target, for instance, has collaborated with Simon Doonan, the creative director of Barneys, on a line of costumes that max out at $30. A spokesperson for the store said that price “continues to be of critical importance” to Target shoppers.

Even cereal brands are getting in on the action. General Mills’ marketing manager told the New York Times that the company is offering three monster-themed cereals this year — Boo Berry, Count Chocula and Franken Berry (pictured) — all in newly designed boxes for a limited amount of time before the holiday because, “historically, October accounted for half of all monster cereal sales throughout the year.” This fall, General Mills “wanted to focus…efforts on this pre-Halloween period that is so important to the monster cereals consumer.” As such, the themed cereals have been priced at just $2.50 per box.

With the U.S. economy still in bad shape and consumers watching every dollar, stores are seriously scrambling to take advantage of any opportunity for sales — even if it includes making a massive deal out of previously-not-so-commercial holidays. If sales are down this holiday season, expect to see lots of Easter goods competing with Valentine’s Day chocolate on store shelves come February.