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Oct. 1, 2020, 3:26 p.m. EDT

Halloween sales forecast could be frightful to companies trying to create holiday season momentum

Data shows that a lot of people intend to scale back their Halloween plans

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By Tonya Garcia, MarketWatch


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Far fewer people are expected to be trick-or-treating this Halloween

Nearly half of shoppers, 49%, will spend less to celebrate Halloween this year versus last, according to data from Numerator, which could put a chill in the launch of the holiday shopping season as brands and retailers try to generate momentum amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

More than half, 52%, of consumers say they will buy less candy this year. And 73% expect to celebrate Halloween differently.

“Baking continues to outpace prior years so expect to see more homemade treats for more personal exchanges which may take a bite out of candy,” Numerator said. “Individual candy packets will continue to be important but we expect sales to be lower with fewer large gatherings in which larger quantities are needed.”

Read: The back-to-school shopping season will be a ‘dud’ one analyst says, but the NRF is forecasting a record breaker

Retailers, in turn, have made adjustments.

“[I]f trick-or-treat tends to be a little lower than expectation, clearly, we’ll focus even more on the treat-for-me and the candy bowl occasion.”

Hershey Chief Executive Michele Buck

The coronavirus, which has kept consumers close to home for the summer, has already derailed the back-to-school season. As school districts worked to provide altered in-person instruction as well as remote classes, parents pulled back on their usual purchases of items like clothing and notebooks.

See: Children’s Place is in a good place for a comeback, analysts say -- right behind Walmart, Target and Kohl’s

Now with weeks until Halloween, families appear to be preparing for a scaled back Halloween spend due to safety concerns tied to the spread of COVID-19, as well as any fears about the state of the U.S. economy, which has experienced a sharp rise in unemployment over the past six months.

“Home spending continues to be strong so Halloween decorations may be on the rise, depending on where the economy is in October,” Numerator said.

The National Retail Federation is expecting Halloween sales of $8.05 billion, down from $8.78 billion in 2019. However, those that are participating are expected to spend $92.12 on average, compared with $86.27 last year.

The coronavirus has forced significant shifts in the American shopping calendar. Halloween is now feeling the squeeze.

“COVID-19 concerns will lead to lighter participation than previous years, shifting focus to family festivities in the home,” wrote Advantage Solutions in a report. Advantage Solutions is a sales and marketing services provider to consumer goods companies and retailers.

In a normal year, 32% of Americans would go trick-or-treating, Advantage Solutions data shows. This year, only 14% say they will, with the authorities in the city of Los Angeles recommending that people forego the practice all together.

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