Once in a Blue Moon: Is Halloween 2020 Really Happening?

by | 29 October 2020

Halloween is alive and kicking despite the coronavirus specter lurking nearby. Motivated by recent commercial real estate vacancies, Spirit Halloween, the seasonal pop-up shop of all things spooky and ghoulish, opened over 1,400 stores in North America this year. While one of their biggest competitors, Party City, opted to reduce their Halloween pop-ups by 91% after losing sizeable market share to e-commerce in 2019.

The National Retail Federation annual Halloween survey reported that 58% of Americans would spend approximately $92 each (~$230 per U.S. household) on Halloween this year. Maintaining Halloween’s tradition from dressing up in costumes to handing out candy, carving pumpkins to “ensure a memorable holiday” is high on consumers’ minds after quarantine lockdowns restricted social activities earlier this year. Consumers plan to spend 96% on candy, 75% on decorations, 65% on costumes, and 40% on greeting cards, with the NRF forecasting $8 billion in expected revenue for 2020.

The magic of All Hallow’s Eve this year is that it not only falls on a Saturday night but coincides with a full blue moon and daylight savings time in the U.S. Fun fact: The last time a blue moon was viewable by all U.S. time zones on Halloween was 76 years ago in 1944. Aside from howling at the moon, consumers, retailers, and communities embrace Halloween to take a walk on the wild side.

Reinventing the Halloween Experience

The Sour Patch Kids brand launched a campaign to bring a Reverse Trick-or-Treat experience to families in 12 U.S. markets. Burbank to Bluffton, communities gather for reverse trick-or-treating to engage kids in a social distancing Halloween activity while also supporting efforts to curb COVID-19. On a smaller scale, neighbors prank each other with a hand-delivered Halloween Booed–a ghostly helium balloon with a weighted box of candy or other treats, with the encouragement to pay it forward. Meijer, a Michigan-based supermarket chain, expects the “You’ve Been Booed” trend to peak as families seek out alternate activities that are socially-distanced friendly.

It’s All About the Treats

According to IRI sales data, cited by the National Confectioners Association, Halloween chocolate and candy sales are up 8.6% as of October 4th compared to last year.  The association found that these elevated sales numbers correspond to an overwhelming sentiment from 90% of young parents who say they cannot imagine Halloween without chocolate and candy. Good news for the Ohio father whose love for trick-or-treating fun crafted a DIY candy chute from leftover PVC pipes prompting copycats across the nation to do the same, including an enterprising 8-year old in Washington, D.C.

For families undecided about Halloween costuming ideas, Google’s Frightgeist Tracker shares the most-searched-for Halloween costume across the U.S. At the time of publication, the top three costumes trending this year are 1) Witch; 2) Dinosaur; and 3) comic book character, Harley Quinn.

PSA: To determine the COVID-19 risk level in your community, the Halloween Costume Association provides an interactive map with an outline of Halloween Safety guidelines and activities aligned with the CDC social distancing recommendations here.

What will you be doing this year to celebrate Halloween safely? Join the conversation online and follow me on Twitter to share your ghoulish Halloween story or for regular updates and musings about commercial real estate and the retail industry.