Halloween sales return from the dead

E-retailers are offering early discounts and lower-priced items.

Allison Enright

E-retailers are casting spells in the hope that consumers this Halloween spend enough so that online sales exceed last year’s levels. Data from retailers and consumer research suggest those spells may work.

Americans will spend an average of $66.28 on Halloween costumes, candy and décor this year, nearly $10 more than in 2009, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2010 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey. A separate consumer survey conducted exclusively for Internet Retailer by Lightspeed Online Research Inc. finds that 35% of Halloween shoppers will buy holiday goods online and that 71% of those shopping online will spend between $25 and $100 with e-retailers.

That’s a sugary forecast for e-retailers that took a hit in 2009. At BlairCandy.com, Halloween sales are up about 20% from the same time last year, says Pam Macharola, president of Blair Candy Co.’s e-commerce division.

But those sales are shifting to lower-priced items from higher-priced goods. Macharola says the company made sure to add lower-priced candies this year based on last year’s trend toward smaller orders. “People are budgeting so much more so we brought in some cheaper items. We thought that if shoppers are feeling good they might just throw in an extra bag of candy for $2,” she says.

Candy buyers are putting even more $2 bags in their shopping carts than Macharola expected. BlairCandy.com’s average order value has increased $4 from last year to roughly $42. Another holiday-focused retailing site, HalloweenCostumes.com, has experienced a 20% to 30% increase in 2010 sales, plus a 2% increase in average order values, says company CEO Tom Fallenstein.

While Halloween spending appears better this year, consumers aren’t going all out with their holiday purchases. 30% say the state of the economy has affected their Halloween plans. “Consumers will still err on the side of caution. Americans are excited about Halloween but are still being frugal,” says Phil Rist, executive vice president of BIGresearch, which conducted the NRF survey.

Some e-retailers expect that consumers will hold off on purchases, continuing a trend they witnessed last year. “We’re sure sales will come. It’s just a matter of time. I think that people are waiting to the last minute,” says Meredith Abraham, vice president of AnytimeCostumes.com.

Abraham says site traffic to AnytimeCostumes.com so far is down from last year, but that conversions from that traffic have increased. She says she is hopeful that with Halloween falling on a Sunday this year, more consumers will make last-minute purchases. Hoping to capture those late sales, AnytimeCostumes.com will offer a discount on overnight shipping via UPS to deliver on Saturday, Oct. 30, she says.

According to Internet Retailer’s Holiday Shopping Survey, more than half (52%) of consumers who say they will shop for Halloween goods online will make purchases in early October; 15% say mid-October and 0% say late October. The rest made their Halloween purchases in late September or plan to wait until they find more discounts and promotions.

E-retailers say they are getting an early start on their marketing efforts to capture early sales. Macharola says BlairCandy.com started its promotional e-mails for the holiday in mid-September. “We’re kind of leading them into the holiday. We’ve never done it this early but with the shaky economy we want to give them a little more time to spend money,” Macharola says.


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