Spooky Kooky Covid
Despite the cool breeze blowing bright red and yellow leaves off of trees and the nostalgic smell of pumpkin spice lattes wafting through the air, our fall festivities are looking a lot different this year. Luckily, some timely coincidences of this year’s Halloween may make up for some of the disappointment that Covid-19 brought to the holiday. Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, which means that there will be more time for activities throughout the day, and younger kids can stay up later than usual. This year, we might also be able to see a rare blue moon on Halloween, which will bring an unexpected surprise to many people who are missing the usual excitement of trick-or-treating and other Halloween festivities.
This year, the Halloween and Costume Association along with multiple other partners put out guidelines that provide trick-or-treating suggestions and examples of activities one can partake in their respective areas. They have classified green, yellow, orange, and red zones of counties across the country that indicate levels of COVID-19 and how hazardous it is to participate in particular activities. Each zone contains examples of the safest way to have fun including face mask parties, candy hunts, Netflix and Zoom parties, and Halloween karaoke.
According to the National Retail Federation, there is a 6 percent decrease in trick-or-treaters, 7 percent decrease in those who plan to go to a haunted house, and 10 percent decrease in those who plan to attend or throw a party compared to last year's numbers. Although many are steering away from the more social activities, there is an increase in participants who will dress up their pets, carve a pumpkin, and decorate their homes. Interestingly, consumer spending for this holiday will rise to $92 per person compared to the $86 from last year, making this the highest year in halloween spending per person.
Despite the rise in Halloween spending, store owners and economists say that there will be an overall decrease in consumer spending surrounding the holiday, as families are dealing with financial instability and job loss. The candy industry and other smaller independent businesses have had varied experiences with maintaining their revenue during the pandemic. Mars Wrigley, one of the leading candy manufacturers in the world, is releasing an app for a virtual trick-or-treating experience that lets users earn points to redeem real candy. The company is also making a variety of “goody bags” for Zoom parties and scary movie nights with friends and family. These companies use tactics like displaying Halloween candy earlier than usual and other marketing tricks to make the most of a difficult financial season. For example, Hershey’s holiday season started two to three weeks earlier to try to gain some of the revenue lost from decreased trick-or-treating. “That means those pumpkin-shaped chocolates are catching the eye of consumers, who may want to enjoy the change of season or treat themselves or find a way to cope during a difficult time” said Krishnakumar Davey, president of strategic analytics at market research firm IRI (Repko). “Chocolate is an affordable indulgence and some people use it when they’re distressed” (Repko).
The costume industry, on the other hand, has had a different experience with their marketing strategies and stores. Spirit Halloween is offering delivery through Instacart and is selling themed face masks and bags on a stick so trick-or-treaters can collect candy from an arms-length away. Party City, however, is opening just 25 Halloween pop-up stores compared to the 275 it ran last year, resulting in a 91 percent decrease in locations. Smaller costume shops around the country depend on Halloween to bring in most of their revenue, but many have been struggling to even sell the bare minimum that’s necessary for their survival. Some items such as home decor, children’s costumes, and Halloween themed face masks remain in high demand, but adult costumes and accessories bring in the majority of the seasonal revenue and profits and can cost more than $100 per person. Since, this year's activities have been mostly confined to children’s costumes and lawn decorations, costume shops are taking an even larger hit than expected. Some costume store sales have decreased by 80% and more than 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed during the pandemic.
In the midst of all of the Covid-19 chaos, it is important to make the most of Halloween and support stores that depend heavily on Halloween revenue. We will all have to celebrate Covid holidays in new and creative ways, but hopefully we can adapt to the circumstances and maintain fun traditions for the years to come.