Marketers carve into Halloween's bonanza

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Halloween looks to be a real treat for the Web this year, concludes a study by American Express Co.

The study, "2000 American Express Retail Index on Halloween," said 6% of Americans are expected to browse or shop online this Halloween. That's up fivefold from the 1% who did so last year.

In addition, more Halloween shoppers are planning ahead with 25% starting their shopping -- both online and offline -- by the end of September, the survey found. Overall, consumers will spend an average of $27 on costumes this Halloween, up 23% from last year. Consumers' total Halloween budgets, however, have fallen, with this year's average tab at $84, off 14.3% from last year, but still up from 1998, according to the data.

Only Christmas spending is greater, said the National Retail Federation. Overall Halloween spending is expected to reach $6.8 billion this year, the greatest portion of that being $2 billion in candy sales, followed by costumes at $1.5 billion, according to an NRF survey. Americans also have made Halloween the second-largest opportunity for home decoration behind Christmas, with sales of home decorations at $659 million in 1999, up 53% from 1998, the NRF study concluded.


So many marketers are getting into the act that even greeting card manufacturers are pushing the holiday as a great way to reach people frightened of a particular day in mid-February. American Greetings Corp. said Halloween cards provide a less scary venue than Valentine's Day to tell someone you love them.

"We have definitely capitalized on Halloween online," said Heather Waldman, director of e-commerce for Spencer Gifts' online site (, an arm of Universal Studios. "We had very aggressive plans and we increased our business by 21/2 times that." Shoppers are less fussy about fit for costumes vs. apparel they plan to wear to work or for other occasions, she said.


Spencer Gifts, which also operates Spirit Halloween Superstores since it purchased the company in mid-1999 , marketed itself this year through portals such as Microsoft Corp.'s MSN and Yahoo!. It also ran banner ads on women's sites such as iVillage and, targeting moms who buy costumes for their children and might even dress up for the holiday themselves; and sites, such as Alloy Online, Bolt and, aiming for teens who might do their own costume buying.

One of Spencer Gifts' most successful promotions, Ms. Waldman said, was through a regular Friday e-mail by MSN, which touted online shopping deals. The promotion featured 20% off all costumes, masks and decorations.

Spencer Gifts' site also is mentioned in the retail store's offline marketing in billboard, newspaper and radio ads. Advertising is handled in-house.


The Web has responded to the the night of ghosts and goblins with a cornucopia of Halloween e-commerce offerings.

Among portals, Yahoo! is pushing itself via in-house-created ads as having "everything you need for Halloween."

America Online's CompuServe is running a banner ad promoting a Fright Fest at Six Flags amusement parks and offering free Halloween screen savers.

Brick-and-click retailer Kmart Corp. and its have the usual costumes, masks and wigs while pure-play e-tailer proffers costumes for dogs and other animals.

Many sites, including AOL, are featuring content such as tips on decorating, making costumes and how to safely go trick or treating.

"Halloween has been the No. 1 item in our `search' at shop@aol for the past three weeks ending Oct. 15," said an AOL spokeswoman. Halloween promotions embarked two weeks earlier this year based on last year's response, the spokeswoman said.

Just in time for the holiday, is relaunching with billboards using a horror movie theme. Though aptly named for the holiday, the site that sells fashion clothing is rising from the dead following its purchase by

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