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

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

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Heath, Dr. Deena Hinshaw. Black Press file photo
COVID claims 25 more Albertans

100-year-old among those who died

An x-ray tech demonstrates the new equipment in use. (Photo Submitted)
New diagnostic equipment now operational at Sylvan Lake AACS

In August it was announced that Stephen and Jacqueline Wuori donated $850,000 to AACS

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta adds 463 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

The central zone has 818 active cases

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Red Fraggle, one of Jim Henson Company’s Fraggle Rock characers, is shown at Time To Play Holiday Show, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010, in New York. The Jim Henson Company says production has officially started in Calgary on a reboot of the original 1980s children’s puppet series, which was filmed in Toronto.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mark Lennihan
‘Fraggle Rock’ children’s puppet series reboot starts production in Calgary

A spokesperson says the new series will stream on Apple TV plus

Black Press file photo
Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate fatal pedestrian collision

A 37-year-old man from Maskwacis has died in hospital as a result of his injuries.

A registered nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Yukon’s Minister of Community Services, John Streiker, says he’s outraged that a couple from outside the territory travelled to a remote community this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-POOL
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail

Metis Nation of B.C. President Clara Morin Dal Col poses in this undated handout photo. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Metis Nation of B.C. *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Metis Nation of B.C. suspends president, citing ‘breach’ of policies, procedures

Vice-president Lissa Smith is stepping in to fill the position on an acting basis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Blackfalds RCMP investigate fatal collision

Preliminary investigation revealed a south bound pickup truck collided with an eastbound car

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Most Read