Oh, the Horrors! Marketers Miss Out on Halloween

Survey Shows Marketers Overlook $8 Billion Holiday by Focusing on Back-to-School, Christmas

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More consumers than ever plan to celebrate Halloween, so where are all the Halloween ads?

According to the National Retail Federation, seven in 10 Americans plan to celebrate the holiday this year, the most in the survey's 10-year history. Total spending on the holiday is expected to reach $8 billion, with each person spending about $80 on decorations, costumes and candy.

"Almost as soon as people bring down their fall and winter apparel from the top shelves in their closets, Halloween becomes top of mind," said Phil Rist, exec VP-strategic initiatives at BigInsight. "There's certainly pent-up demand for having some fun this year and shoppers are planning to spend their hard-earned dollars on items that help them get into the Halloween spirit."

Given the consistent growth in Halloween spending, it could be an opportunity for retailers to more heavily promote the holiday. Many are caught trying to balance both Halloween and Christmas, pointed out Mike Gatti, a senior VP at the NRF. Many retailers officially kick off holiday campaigns at the end of October or in the first days of November, while holiday merchandise can be found in stores as early as September.

"People are standing in line with a pumpkin looking at Christmas ornaments," Mr. Gatti said. "Everyone complains about [Christmas creep] but people are in there buying it."

Mr. Gatti said there could be a chance for mainstream retailers to start thinking about Halloween as a more significant part of the advertising and promotions calendar. It's a focus for Halloween pop-up shops and costume retailers, of course, but for many others it's just the holiday that gets squeezed in between back-to-school and Christmas campaigns. Both back-to-school and Christmas attract significantly more spending than Halloween.

"Everyone from home centers to pet stores is taking advantage of the growth in Halloween," Mr. Gatti said. "So it could be a missed opportunity [to include it as part of ] the ad calendar."

Part of the appeal of Halloween for consumers is that it's a relatively inexpensive holiday to partake in, compared with Christmas, Valentine's or even Easter, which often involve gifts and more elaborate meals. Of those consumers buying this Halloween, the average person is expected to spend $43.60 on costumes, up from $40.81 a year ago, and $32.35 on decorations, up from $28.54. Consumers are expected to shell out $24.25 on candy, up from $22 .05 a year ago.

Still, a quarter of consumers say the economy will impact their Halloween plans. Most say they'll spend less overall, but others say they'll be making Halloween costumes instead of buying them or buying less candy.

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