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

The French Creek Pollution Control Centre. (PQB News file photo)
RDN targets grants for major projects in Nanoose Bay, French Creek and Whiskey Creek

Official says projects have a strong chance to be approved for cash

The regional fire training building project is now in use by fire departments in District 69. (Submitted photo)
Parksville Qualicum Beach area has new regional training building for firefighters

Project a collaboration involving multiple fire departments

In this photo provided by Shannon Kiss, smoke from the CalWood Fire billows, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, as seen from Gunbarrel, Colo. (Shannon Kiss via AP)
‘First guys out:’ Western Canadian air tanker fleet busy despite drop in wildfires

CEO believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years as people live closer to where they start

Fort St. John councillor Trevor Bolin (B.C. Conservative Party)
BC Conservatives leader fights back after BC Liberals leak 2018 workplace harassment case

Sexual harassment case was connected to employee being terminated, WorkSafeBC found

Employee Sophia Lovink shows off a bag of merchandise in Toronto on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Canada gets C-average grade on 2nd year of cannabis legalization

Cannabis Council of Canada releases report card on federal government and legalization

(Black Press Media files)
B.C. suburbs could see increased demand for rental units as people work from home

Vancouver’s average monthly rent is the highest out of 35 cities across Canada

The BC Ferries vessel the Queen of Oak Bay. (News Bulletin file photo)
‘Buy a boat,’ Horgan advises anti-maskers on BC Ferries

NDP leader John Horgan talks COVID-19 misinformation

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Restrictions on non-essential travel between Canada and the United States are being extended until at least Nov. 21. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Non-essential travel restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended to at least Nov. 21

The restrictions do not apply to those providing essential services in either country

The BC Ferries vessel the Queen of Alberni. (News Bulletin file photo)
UPDATE: More sailings cancelled after ferry breaks down

Queen of Alberni out of commission, BC Ferries revises schedules

The BC Ferries vessel the Queen of Oak Bay arrives at Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. (News Bulletin file photo)
Anti-mask protesters cause disturbance on ferry at Horseshoe Bay

Queen of Oak Bay delayed by about 45 minutes Saturday morning

In this photo illustration, a provincial election mail-in ballot sealed in an Elections B.C. return envelope is seen before being deposited in a Canada Post mailbox, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. The final result of British Columbia’s provincial election won’t be known for at least two weeks because more than 700-thousand mail-in ballots have to be counted by hand. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s snap election means 700k ballots will be counted manually, delaying results

Elections BC spokesman said employees in 87 electoral districts will count mail-in ballots one by one

Most Read