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"Halloween is now the #2 decorating holiday in America!" more than one sales rep has exclaimed. While I will admit that Halloween decorating has trended up in the past decade, I usually counter that in the US, we really only have two major decorating holidays: Christmas and Halloween.
But I will admit that in the years since we opened our store, Halloween has gone from being primarily a children's holiday to being a part of almost everyone's life. While trick or treating is still the largest part of the celebration for children, adults attend Halloween parties and decorate the inside and outside of homes and offices.
Last year the National Retail Federation reported that Americans planned to spend $6.9 billion for Halloween -- compared to $3.3 billion in 2005. More than 1/3 of that amount goes to costumes (including costumes for pets), another 1/3 for candy, and slightly less than 1/3 for decoration.
How can your shop take advantage of the great potential for this holiday? I would suggest that you start by considering whether you want to try to compete in the costume and candy category. You need to offer a fairly extensive selection if you are going to be a destination for costume purchases or rental. You may, however, be successful in selling accessories such as headbands, hats, mustaches (especially this year), tattoo sleeves, jewelry and even bibs. One of our best-selling Halloween items for the past several years has been tiny spider earrings.
The candy category is also one where it is hard to compete, especially if the grocery stores and big box stores in your area offer a deeply discounted selection. I interviewed an 8-year old for this article, and she told me that although some houses give out erasers and other little gift items instead of candy, she and her friends don't really think that's cool. So I would avoid most small gifts that would be considered stocking stuffers (or basket fillers) during other holiday seasons. Bouncy eyeballs are a fun toy, but do people buy Halloween toys?
A specialty shop can really excel in the decor category, offering unusual indoor and outdoor decorations that customers won't find in competing stores. Try to offer a range from cute to creepy, since not everyone wants skeletons and skulls -- but those who really love Halloween are often those who are trying for a scary effect. Anything that glows or makes a noise seems to sell well to this customer.
Keep an eye on price points for Halloween, since the novelty of an item often dictates its appeal. As a rule, novelty has to be relatively inexpensive in order to sell. Practical pieces such as large bowls for trick or treat candy, or a witch's hat and apron for the person greeting children at the door, are fun touches as long as they are under the magic price point of about $25.
Pumpkin decor without jack-o-lantern faces can carry over to Thanksgiving, which often gets short shrift because it comes so close to Christmas. We have had good success with blown glass pumpkins that look great tucked amongst the ghosts and scarecrows of Halloween, and then stand on their own for Thanksgiving -- the next American decorating holiday on the calendar.