Halloween's roots can be traced back many centuries and the traditions of the holiday in America were established many years ago. But don't be fooled by all that. Retailers need to take the pulse of consumer sentiment each year and adapt holiday merchandising to current needs.
Throughout this week's issue, SN focuses on preparations for Halloween. But the importance of updating stores for changing times extends to the other fall/winter holidays as well.
Of course, it doesn't seem very current to address these holidays in the sweltering summer heat. But that's how the buying cycle works, so we need not let that soften our thinking. Here are some key points made in this issue that are likely to keep you on track through the entire holiday season:
Current Events Can Definitely Intrude: The Sept. 11 tragedy had a major impact on the mood of Halloween 2001. This year national news about the kidnap-murder of a young girl in Southern California casts a new pall over the holiday as children's safety becomes a more important concern. The upshot is that Halloween festivities are increasingly being redirected into the home, with entertaining and parties for children and adults. Retailers would do well to take note of current events and direct products and merchandising to these developments.
Making Sure Holidays Have Legs: The biggest current event for retailers is whatever special event is being promoted on the selling floor that day. But there's growing recognition that stores need to merchandise with a bigger picture in mind so that the holidays appear to flow seamlessly into each other. An article in this week's issue notes that Randalls, Houston, maintains continuity by running a central theme -- "Splash of Autumn" -- throughout all the fall holiday events, starting with the back-to-school Homecoming and continuing into Halloween and Thanksgiving. Many retailers also stress the importance of transitioning early to holidays to increase selling time.
Coordination Counts More Than Before: There are other signs that retailers are looking at holiday merchandising more strategically. A selling opportunity like Halloween involves many products throughout the store, from bakery to nonfood to candy. Last year for the first time Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh, appointed a single marketing manager to lead the chain's Halloween efforts across all departments. It worked so well that the practice is being repeated this year. One of the biggest opportunities in such efforts is cross merchandising. For instance, Bashas', Chandler, Ariz., and Martin's Super Markets, South Bend, Ind., are two retailers linking Halloween video with other holiday merchandise on the selling floor.
Relying on More than Instinct: Any retailer that is stuck with unsaleable seasonal merchandise after a holiday knows the importance of planning and forecasting. Technology is providing more precision with tools to help retailers decide on everything from stocking levels to markdowns.
Tracking annual changes in consumer attitudes and accurately forecasting product needs are crucial in improving this year's holiday results. This is true even if all that seems important right now is keeping suntan lotion in stock.