Halloween 2014: There’s no escaping holiday’s creep

by September 11, 2014

OK, even for a lover of seasonal biz stories, Halloween stories the first week in September are a bit of a stretch.

Or rather, they were.  But this year, Halloween’s orange-and-black is the new … Labor Day story, apparently. If you don’t find an angle and jump on it soon, you might be playing catch-up with competitors when October actually rolls round.

Frightening Friday

A look at the calendar points out that Halloween falls on a Friday this year, which perhaps bodes well for non-retail industries like restaurants and catering, bars and even getaway tourism.  Check now on bookings for Halloween parties and rental supplies such as costumes, tents and décor — as well as demand for performers from magicians and psychics to bands.

Walgreen's Elvis was selling for $9.99 at Halloween. Photo: The Adventures of Kristin and Adam on Flickr

Walgreen’s Elvis was selling for $9.99. Photo: The Adventures of Kristin and Adam on Flickr

The three-day weekend possibilities are not lost on the travel industry; special packages like the $349 Halloween Night Ghost Package at the Hotel Galvez in Galveston, Texas already are out there.   That dinner and tour include tips on ghost-hunting and a ghost-detecting meter; those wishing to stay overnight at the reputedly haunted in also can opt for the Ghosts of the Galvez package.  I even found a hotel in Italy offering a Halloween package and “tasty Halloween surprise” to show you how far the marketing power of this goofy holiday has spread.

The operation of large-scale Halloween haunts, either as a season-extender for traditional theme parks or as temporary installations along with apple-orchard tours and corn mazes, is an interesting biz and, as CNBC reported last year, a $300 million industry and growing.  Who’s profiting in your area from indoor and outdoor scare parks?

Haunts even can save a historic property; here’s a piece about how ties to the movie “The Shawshank Redemption” has spurred tourism at an old Ohio prison, which instead of being demolished now is being used for creepy tours at Halloween as well as mystery dinners and ghost-hunting expeditions.  (The latter two are industries you can check out in your neck of the woods, too.  Ghost-hunting in particular seems to be a rising hobby; CNN said last year that reality shows about paranormal activity have spurred interest and upped competition among sleuths.)

A workplace story springs to mind, as well.  How will employers referee Oct. 31 vacation requests, if lots of people want to make a three-day weekend of it or just leave early to start partying.  Do parents of trick-or-treaters get preference over travelers?  Will Hallow-teeism be a problem if revelers just call in sick?

Halloween by the numbers

Of course, retail is the focus of a lot of All Hallow’s Eve commerce.  Here are the “hair-raising” stats from the National Retail Federation. CNN reports that “Halloween stores come early this year” with pop-ups already appearing in malls and strip centers — in addition to the consumer and marketing angles, I’ve not really seen a good reader-friendly piece on the business model of pop-up stores.   Can online sellers or small retailers benefit from trying out a pop-shop in a more highly-trafficked area?  Here’s a Huffington Post article with some advice and industry statistics.  Talk with center operators and mall developers about what’s working and what’s not for small entrepreneurs.

And here’s a piece from Fortune that notes the pop-up model is being used for more than seasonal shops; it’s a way to test products and services without a huge commitment.

Other retail-related angles are jobs, hot-selling merchandise, popular costumes for 2014. Grocery stores increasingly seem in on the act, from themed cakes and cupcakes to knickknacks.  Candles shops sell witchy scents and thrift stores tout themselves as one-stop shopping for costume ingredients.

And, do not forget, in the Hispanic community the day after Halloween, Nov. 1, is Dia de los Muertos with its own traditions and growing appeal to marketers — and not just in communities with Hispanic heritage.  Dia de los Muertos party supplies, sugar skulls and other merchandise is becoming more common — there’s even a popular casino slot machine featuring dancing skeletons and festival music.   And here’s an article about a suburban Detroit taco restaurant using the commemorative day as a fundraiser.