“Things are getting spoooooky,” read a recent email advertising costume promotions from children’s brand Carter’s. Indeed, when the top costumes are expected to be a hazmat suit and a plague doctor, it hardly gets spookier than Halloween in a pandemic. Despite the holiday falling on a Saturday this year, normally a boon for retailers and brands, the coronavirus has hampered the potential of a blockbuster night. As a result, brands are getting creative with their marketing and digital endeavors in order to attract consumers, who experts say want to spend, but may still be reluctant due to the economy.
“Consumers love this holiday and will be looking for ways to celebrate despite a different environment,” says Katie Thomas, who leads the Kearney Consumer Institute, an internal think tank that studies consumer trends.
Brands have their work cut out for them. Some 42 percent of Americans plan to celebrate Halloween this year, according to an early September survey from data intelligence company MorningConsult, which had no comparative figure from the prior year. But the survey found that 15 percent of consumers say they are nervous to celebrate Halloween as they normally would due to the pandemic.
Last year consumers were expected to spend a near record $8.8 billion on the Oct. 31 holiday, according to the National Retail Federation, which has yet to release its spending predictions for 2020.
Yet there is still potential for spending—if brands tap into trends like digital initiatives and do-it-yourself projects.
“COVID changed the definition of what is essential,” says Inna Kuznetsova, CEO of 1010data, a provider of analytical intelligence to the financial, retail and consumer markets. She notes high growth in categories like lawn care and toys. “While you may think toys are an extra expense, in many families it becomes a necessity when kids are cooped up at home and parents need to work,” Kuznetsova says.
Brands that meet that need could be the winners this October.