People go trick or treating on Halloween in the rain in Ottawa, on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. While the rest of Canada wakes up with a sugar junky’s remorse this morning, residents of some Quebec communities will only venture out this evening to get their Halloween stash. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

With trick-or-treating in doubt, experts say Halloween sales could be weak

Halloween sales could also serve as an indicator for what retailers might expect this Christmas

A Halloween night that falls on both a Saturday and a full moon would normally be ideal for candy, costume and decoration sales – and werewolves.

But experts say rising COVID-19 cases could put the kibosh on spooky festivities, curbing demand for supplies that usually deliver healthy profit margins for retailers from grocers to specialty pop-up stores.

Halloween sales could also serve as an indicator for what retailers might expect this Christmas, the largest shopping season of the year, experts say.

“I expect sales will be soft all around because of the lack of gatherings,” said Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory. “It will be scaled back, especially with restrictions coming back in place.”

Premier Doug Ford said earlier this month that Halloween will be a challenge, noting that he would prefer parents not take their children trick-or-treating.

“It just makes me nervous, kids going door-to-door,” he said.

However, Efros noted that “it’s not just children and trick-or-treating” driving Halloween sales.

“Adults normally spend a considerable amount of money,” she said. “But large gatherings and office Halloween parties just won’t happen this year.”

Retail analyst Bruce Winder said families and friends might plan their own “bubble Halloween” like a backyard celebration or scary movie night.

While people will still buy some candy, decorations and costumes, he said it likely won’t be as profitable as usual for retailers and candy manufacturers.

“Halloween is a really important category for a lot of retailers,” said Winder, the author of the book Retail Before, During and After COVID-19. “Outside of Christmas, it’s the next biggest spend.”

He said candy is often used as a “loss leader” to drive traffic to a store, while decorations and costumes are profit-driving items with high margins.

Yet because consumers will be less likely to shop around for the best prices this year, Winder said some retailers might back off on price promotions to help offset COVID-19 costs.

Still, he said given Halloween inventory was likely ordered months ago in many cases, retailers are likely to “go for it as much as they can.”

“I don’t think retailers are going to change that much in terms of how they merchandise,” Winder said. “They’ll use Halloween as a bit of a barometer for the temperature of Canadian spending during the pandemic ahead of Christmas.”

Meanwhile, candy manufacturers are also bracing for a muted Halloween season.

Hershey Canada Inc. senior marketing manager Ola Machnowski said the maker of Halloween classics like Twizzlers, Jolly Ranchers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups is expecting to see an impact from the pandemic.

“We are expecting a decline in sales,” she said, noting that the company has done some consumer insight work that points to a scaled-back Halloween.

Still, Machnowski said many Canadians are looking forward to celebrating in different ways, and will likely seek out treats and other supplies.

Yet she noted that it’s hard to predict what will happen over the coming weeks in terms of public health guidelines and restrictions.

“We’re trying to find the delicate balance between planning and being nimble,” Machnowski said. “We’ve been talking about Halloween probably since Easter, so it’s very important to us.”

Meanwhile, Michael Ross, chief financial officer of discount chain Dollarama Inc., expressed caution regarding how sales of Halloween goods will develop this year.

Typically, Halloween is “a strong weight’” anchoring third-quarter sales for Dollarama – a mainstay for seasonal products including Halloween candy, decorations and costumes.

“We believe it will have a negative impact, but to what extent we don’t know,” he said earlier this month of the pandemic’s impact on Halloween sales.

READ MORE: Yes, Halloween trick-or-treating can be done with COVID-19, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusHalloween

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Firefighters and RCMP are on scene at a fire on Douglas Street. (Jocelyn Doll - Revelstoke Review)
PHOTOS: Firefighters battling blaze on Douglas Street

RCMP are also on scene and blocking off access to the street

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 18 COVID-19 cases, highest daily count since July

The total of COVID-19 cases in the region is now at 662

A Kelowna clinic decided to immunize their patients in a drive-thru flu clinic earlier this month. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Interior Health anticipates increase in flu vaccinations this season

Some 300,000 doses of flu vaccine ready for distribution across Southern Interior

(Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay)
QUIZ: A celebration of colour

Fall in British Columbia is a time to enjoy a spectrum of vivid colours

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Voters are saying they felt safe voting in person despite the current pandemic. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Central Okanagan voters talk about their pandemic election experience

Despite an election taking place during COVID-19, residents said they felt safe voting in person

Cole Collingwood casts his mock ballot at Vernon’s Mission Hill Elementary School ahead of the provincial election Oct. 24, 2020. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
PHOTOS: Okanagan students cast mock election ballots

At Mission Hill Elementary, the election is a chance to learn about the democratic process

Thanks to efforts by a Kelowna shelter and Elections BC, anyone who wishes to can vote in the 2020 BC Provincial Election, even if they don’t have a fixed address. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Kelowna group ensures people experiencing homelessness can vote

Shelter supervisor says voting ‘a fundamental right’ even for those without a fixed address

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Big White Ski Resort photo)
Big White receives 21 cm of snow in 24 hours

Resort’s snow base 41 cm deep, one month until opening day

The deer were allegedly shot within Princeton town limits, late at night. Black Press File Photo.
Armed man, in full camouflage, allegedly shoots deer in downtown Princeton

‘The list of charges goes on and on,’ said RCMP Sgt. Rob Hughes

Most Read