Trick or Treat: Halloween, the Harbinger of Holiday Change
Americans love to celebrate the holidays with decorations, costumes, parties, food and drink, music, dancing, community kindness, acts of worship, and more. Halloween has always had a big presence not only as a fun, spooky time for both kids and adults alike but also as the major holiday leading up to other big celebrations like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve. And yet, as with disruptions brought upon most aspects of life, COVID-19's effect on Halloween appears to be to dampen consumer spending as well as altering their intentions to celebrate it: recent National Retail Federation research projects $8 billion in Halloween spending for 2020, down from about $8.8 billion last year because of an expected dip in consumer participation in holiday activities.
Our own recent research and white paper about consumer plans for the holidays (Happy Holidays? Consumer Optimism and Realism Collide in the Era of COVID-19) finds that despite concerns, most consumers plan to celebrate the holidays but, of course, differently.
The difference, of course, lies in the fact that despite the holidays being a time of togetherness, during COVID-19, togetherness can pose serious risks. The white paper describes how in a typical year "the majority of consumers report loving Thanksgiving and the December holidays (Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, etc.) and celebrate them to the fullest. Halloween and New Year’s are also appreciated by consumers, but not as beloved. This year, the majority of consumers anticipate celebrating these holidays the same as in prior years or doing more for them than ever before. The only exception is Halloween. Almost half of consumers anticipate doing less for Halloween or ignoring it completely."
Interestingly, Happy Holidays? finds that Halloween is the one holiday where consumers seem most inclined to exercise caution and celebrate differently than is typical for them: out of the four holiday periods under study, it was the holiday most likely to be “completely reinvented” by consumers. Only a small minority of consumers indicated that their families would engage in traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating and/or host or attend a large party. Equal numbers of consumers claimed that candy would be the main food/beverage focus as indicated the focus would be on food/beverage beyond candy (e.g., making a special Halloween-themed dinner).
More information about consumer intentions for the holidays can be found in a download for the Happy Holidays? white paper here.