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  • The Early Bird Gets the Halloween Worm

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With COVID-19 prohibiting many events from taking place in 2020 and changing how families experienced trick-or-treating, the vast majority of parents wanted their children to have a positive Halloween experience, with a focus on candy.

“Parents thought it was important for their kids to participate in trick-or-treating events, but they didn’t know how to do it safely,” said Patty Fishman, vice president of GM/HBC at UNFI. “For children, Halloween is all about the candy and with only 58 percent of families participating in trick-or-treat activities, parents made sure to stock up in advance.”

At the end of the 2020 season, candy sales were only down 0.1% as consumers found new ways and uses for all that candy. Rituals, such as purchasing candy and having it around the house months before Halloween stayed in-tact as those working from home looked to treat themselves. As Halloween drew near, consumers shifted their Halloween energy from party planning to at-home activities such as zoom parties, baking, and in-house scavenger hunts.

Looking towards 2021, while total candy sales aren’t expected to increase for the season, experts agree there will be an early rush.

“Consumers are expecting this year to be different than last and their excitement level will be higher when they see those bags of candy on the shelves. We’re anticipating Halloween candy sales in the early months of promotion will increase by 13 percent this year,” said Fishman.

With so much expected energy, Fishman says it’s important for retailers to be aware of the Halloween seasons to make sure there are properly prepared for the demand.

The Spark: This first step takes place in the June-July timeframe when Halloween candy makes its first appearance on store shelves. Consumers want their first taste and children start thinking about picking out the perfect Halloween costume.

The Exploration: As the summer months wrap up and the calendar flips to September, consumers start thinking about what’s top of mind and the trending new items this year. Thoughts about hosting or going to a Halloween party begin and consumers look for those true items that never fail, such as party decorations, party favors, and best costume awards.

The Plan: In mid-September outdoor activities start to ramp up, especially visits to the local pumpkin patch. Shoppers are now firmly in the fall season and looking for caramel covered apples and other special treats at their local grocer.

The Rush: Halloween is just around the corner and reality starts to set in.  The scary movies are running non-stop, children are excited about school parties and planning their trick-or-treat route. At the same time, the bags of candy at the local store start to get bigger and consumers are getting excited for Halloween day.

The Big Event: It’s a day or two before Halloween, the costumes have been selected, the invites for the party have been sent out and like many other major holidays, there are a few missing items and consumers head back to the stores for those last minute items.

“This year is going to be different as more people attend parties and participate in trick-or-treating and retailers have to get product on the shelves early,” said Fishman.