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Is 2013 a Lucky Year for Halloween Retailers?


It’s the second biggest decoration holiday besides Christmas and its overall industry profits have seen as much as a 100% increase in a decade from around $3 billion in 2005 to nearly $8 billion in 2012. But this year, according to the National Retail Federation’s Halloween Spending Survey, sales are predicted to decrease by 13% to $6.9 billion due to a weakened economy and mediocre job growth. It will be interesting to tally up the totals on November 1st, however, since Halloween shopping is the ultimate impulse purchase.

Highly competitive categories include costumes and accessories for people, costumes for pets, outdoor decorations and the equipping of “haunted” attractions that spring up in neighborhoods all across the country.

So, for the sake of excellent cocktail party conversation, and possible future profit, let’s follow the bloody trail of trends and opportunity that lead the way to the business side of All Hallow’s Eve.


waltbreakingbadA whopping $2.6 billion will be spent this year on costumes alone. At some point in the not-so-distant past, adult costume profits surpassed the children’s costume category by $200 million. This trend has set the stage for costume companies to create better, cheaper, higher quality “all inclusive” adult costumes. Breaking Bad, Duck Dynasty, Great Gatsby and Daenerys of HBO’s Game of Thrones are the big hits for adults this year.

Children’s costumes are still big business, though, and pop culture products are key. According to Google and Yahoo, this year’s most searched-for kids costumes are Minion from the Despicable Me movies and the Fox costume inspired by viral comedy video, Ylvis – The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?).

As for price points, the biggest challenge for retailers in adult costume sales comes from pricing them at the “sweet spot” of $39. When the price gets to be over $50, the quantity goes down. For kid’s costumes, the price point is right around $29, although retailers would prefer some $10-$19 range choices for their customers. The most expensive kids costumes are coming in at around $30-$39.


Other positive trends are that more than half of Millenials, age 18-24 years of age, say they plan to put on a costume and a party this year and more than 30% of all adults plan to dress their pets up in costumes. In response, Petsmart created a clever “Costume Machine” on Facebook that allows you to upload a photo of your pet and virtually try on costumes before you buy, share the pic on social networks and print coupons for savings on costumes and treats.


Half of all U.S. consumers will decorate the outside their home for Halloween. In a nine-year comparison of spending done by the NRF, the numbers reflect a more than 100% increase in spending from $0.84 billion in 2005 to $1.96 billion projected in 2013.


Trends in this area include two-story-high giant hanging ghosts and animatronic corpses that spring from the grave when trick-or-treaters walk by. Zombies, ghosts, ghouls and demons now grace the aisles of your local drug store, so being inventive to scare the neighbors is barely necessary anymore.


You see them all over your neighborhoods every year – haunts, corn mazes, pumpkin patches and other attractions. If you decide to take on the task of creating a “haunt” in your neighborhood, you’ve already got a lot of competition. For most folks in this once-a-year business, tickets and merchandise sales are mostly earning just under $100K per year. However, 20% of haunt owners make up to $500K and a smaller 2% are raking in up to $2 Million in sales – although they usually own more than one attraction.

These businessmen and women create entire macabre “experiences,” selling tickets online and delivering a truly frightening experience for their guests. The tools of their trade are gruesome props, animatronics, costumed actors, lighting, sound and special effects – even visitor automated tracking systems to make sure everyone attending is scared stiff.

Where does all this equipment come from? Although many haunts build their own props, many attend trade shows early in the year to see and buy the latest, scariest effects and ideas in the business. The biggest by far is held in St. Louis, MO in March called the TransWorld Haunt Show and even their promotional video is pretty creepy.

For all Halloween retailers, the biggest challenge is bad luck. This can come in the form of bad weather (Hurricane Sandy last year stopped the industry in its tracks on the east coast), helium shortages and a looming fiscal cliff. It’s also a challenge for local stores to stay competitive with online e-commerce sites. But these days, the biggest challenge for specialty retailers is competing with the big box stores in their neighborhood. Target, Walmart and many others are increasing their buying strength, creating huge areas for Halloween merchandise for existing shoppers. Yes, the business side of scaring up profits for Halloween can cause the average retailer plenty of fear and trembling.


Brought to you by Vertical Marketing Network, a Leading Integrated Marketing Agency.

Screen captures intended as illustrative examples only. Registered trademarks and logos are the property of their respective owners.

One comment on “Is 2013 a Lucky Year for Halloween Retailers?

  1. Philip
    October 23, 2013

    My takeaway beyond the reporting on the close-in Halloween industry categories, is on what we can learn from these successes. The overwhelming popularity of Halloween-themed products from pumpkin spice lattes to pumpkin pie flavored vodka can be transformed into special SKUs for brands at different appropriate times of the year (Is Washington Cherry Snickers such a stretch for President’s Day?). And the successful merchandising and costume events for retailers leading up to Halloween, can this tactic be effectively utilized for cross-merchandising and shattering the static corporate supermarket environment for Ground Hog’s Day? There seems to be a lot of imagination on display during the Halloween season that can be transported to other points in the marketing calendar.


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This entry was posted on October 23, 2013 by in Uncategorized.

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