Target, Lowe’s try to cash in on Halloween spirit, curbside
Traditional trick-or-treating may be on hold for many states this year amid the pandemic, but retailers are trying to come to the rescue. A handful of big-box marketers are diversifying their Halloween offerings, beyond stocking shelves with costumes and candy, in order to better connect with customers.
“Retailers have always looked for ‘news’ to spur consumers to come back to the store,” says Barbara Kahn, Patty and Jay H. Baker Professor of Marketing at The Wharton School, noting key shopping moments such as back-to-school or winter holidays. “In our new world, retailers have to be creative to spur that incentive and happiness, while being mindful of the ‘new normal’ and prevailing conditions.”
Lowe’s appears to be taking that advice to heart with its new October offerings. The home-improvement retailer, which has seen sales rise during coronavirus lockdowns, said this week it will be offering drive-thru curbside trick-or-treating for two weekends in October at all of its stores. Consumers, who will receive candy and pumpkins at the events, need to book spots ahead of time in a reservation system.
A Lowe’s spokeswoman says the company is already seeing “early excitement” from customers ahead of registration, which begins Oct. 10, for the new version of trick-or-treating, which is a first for the chain. The events “are designed with the hope of bringing communities together in a safe way this holiday,” she says, noting that Lowe’s will also sell usual merchandise such as Halloween decorations and a new Universal Studios Monsters collection.
Similarly, Target will be giving out surprise treats as well this month. On select days in October, the Minneapolis-based retailer plans to give out “boo bags starter kits” to customers who use its drive-up and order pickup services, a spokesman says.
Meanwhile, some chains have yet to unveil their plans. A Walmart spokeswoman said in a statement that the retail giant “is working to help customers make the most of the socially distanced holiday by celebrating Halloween together, stay tuned for more details.”
Others, including Lowe’s rival Home Depot, are focusing on digital events for consumers to do at home. Home Depot is offering online do-it-yourself projects like a fall kids craft and scarecrow flowerpot. The chain partnered with influencers on the videos for the crafts, according to a spokeswoman for the home improvement brand.
Retailers have had a difficult time planning for Oct. 31 in a year filled with more tricks than treats. While some regions are still under lockdowns, others, such as New York City, are opening up and then closing down certain zip codes as danger of a second wave of COVID-19 intensifies. Many in California are advising against door-to-door trick-or-treating in order to limit virus exposure. Brands are struggling to market to customers effectively with the ever-changing situation, which may include fewer costumes and more candy as consumers sit at home.
But tapping into the spirit of Halloween, which is a fun, joyful time, might be the best strategy for creative marketers, says Kahn. “Providing a way for families to enjoy the holiday and stay safe is a win-win,” she says. “And, of course, from the retailer’s perspective, if it spurs customers to buy other things while at the store—so much the better.”