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Trick or Treat

Written by Bill Tanzer

 

Even with snow falling in several parts of the country, Halloween sales are expected to top $6.9 billion dollars this year in the United States, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s a lot of change dropped on candy, costumes and decorations.

Knocking on doors and asking for treats dates back to the Middle Ages, but it’s relatively recently that packaging started to reflect the season. Prior to the 1980s, parents bought the generic bags of chocolates, the usual merchandise that could be found all year long – no matter what the holiday. Now, candy manufacturers go all out with the festive candy packaging, featuring specific Halloween themes, from orange foils to ghouls, ghosts and monsters. The packaging fits right in with the surrounding costumes, décor and pumpkin pails.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that overall sales have gone up every year since companies began seasonal packaging. As mentioned, $6.9 billion is a huge chunk of change, up from $5.8 billion from just two years ago. That certainly puts the boo in booming.

Why are consumers inclined to purchase more Halloween merchandise every year? Seven out of 10 Americans are predicted to be celebrating Halloween this year, spending an average of $72.31 each. Is it the sugar fix? The chocolate addictions?

I’ll go out on a limb and announce that most people enjoy a sweet treat. But when packaging jumps out like a zombie thriller, immediately capturing the consumer’s attention, the urge to splurge is even greater.

Here’s a related example: Anyone of a certain age might remember eating Mike and Ikes. A few years ago, the candy company noticed that sales were sluggish. Why? Probably because the traditional black and white packaging was considered dull and old-fashioned. Boxes were most likely overlooked on the shelves for something more exciting and eye-catching. After re-launching with a more colorful design, Mike and Ikes sales increased 25%.

Remember, Halloween candy is a just a portion of total expected sales. (Although, more than 73% surveyed by the National Retail Federation said they would participate in handing out treats.) Consumers buy outfits for themselves, their kids and their pets. They make jack’o’lanterns, attend costume parties, visit haunted mansions, and enjoy haunted hayrides with their families. They also purchase decorations for their homes and distribute greeting cards and party favors. It’s not one specific thing that makes the holiday a memorable occasion, one becoming more popular each year. It’s the entire package!

October 30, 2011

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