BROOKINGS, Ore. -- C & K Markets, headquartered here, is one of many supermarket chains around the country that are now rolling out their Halloween offerings and displays to capitalize on what some say is the second largest selling opportunity after Christmas.
"We're promoting the holiday heavily, complete with costumes, makeup, and the full array of Halloween products, devoting a lot more space," Dan Van Zant, C & K Markets' director of general merchandise, told SN. The retailer has developed 3D endcaps with headers, 8-feet to 12-feet shop-arounds, and a four-page, full color in-store circular slated to run two weeks prior to Oct. 31. The displays went into 48 stores on Sept. 11.
"We're also being aggressive in pricing, selection, and advertising in order to gain market share back from mass merchandisers," Van Zant said. Since actively concentrating on seasonal merchandise in the past two years, sales have gone up 200%, he added.
The Halloween Association, an Ellicott City, Md.-based organization that promotes the holiday as an industry and as a celebration, ranks Halloween as the second largest retail holiday, only trailing behind retailers' classic juggernaut, Christmas. According to TMA's web site, www.halloweenassn.org, and its coordinator, Mary Helen Sprecher, it is the third largest party day after New Year's and Super Bowl Sunday and it has grown into a $5 billion industry. For most retailers, this adds up to a push for seasonal expansion in this particular category.
The season isn't just for kids anymore, either. Sprecher said people over age 18 are fueling the growth of costume rentals and sales as adult Halloween costume parties have become more prevalent.
"Baby boomers have great memories of Halloween as children, and they don't want to let that go," she said.
Indeed, Sarah Scheuer, a spokesperson for the National Retail Federation, Washington, told SN that the fun aspect of the holiday draws adults to spend money. "It's also a good activity to participate with your kids," she said.
The home seasonal decorations category has also grown. According to Pam Danziger, president and chief executive officer of Unity Marketing, Stevens, Pa., Halloween decor was the fastest-growing segment of seasonal decorations last year, with an increase of 53% over 1998.
Michael Michaud, president of Halloween products manufacturer Kama, Atlanta, said his Goblin Guides collection of candles, luminarias, and paint and stencil kits have increased in popularity. "When I started the company in 1988, luminarias [decorative paper bags in which candles are set] were only a niche item. Today, they have become a Halloween staple." The candles and bags come in sets of 6, priced at $4.99 in supermarkets, drug stores and specialty stores across the country.
With a seasonal category that includes increasingly elaborate costumes depicting such characters as princesses, ninjas, and X-Men; home decorations such as pumpkin candles; a plethora of party goods; glow-in-the-dark greeting cards; and pumpkin-carving kits, some retailers want to create a theme based on the holiday around their stores.
Dean Owens, vice president of general merchandise at Minyard Food Stores in Coppell, Texas, said his main idea is to keep various seasonal products together in order to create a Halloween theme.
"We have everything to complement Halloween in seasonal section 30-foot aisles and large front-end lobbies, with products like masks, makeup, both popular and basic costumes, candles, tablecloths, and yard decorations," Owens said. They also put together safety items such as flashlights and batteries. Products are expected be shipped to stores by Oct. 1.
Van Zant also said C & K Markets keeps a festive theme for the season. "We decorate the stores with pumpkins and bales of hay, and tie products such as pumpkin-carving kits in with the produce section." He added that a canopy goes over the top of the seasonal section to draw attention to it.
Sprecher said consumers are looking for more one-stop shopping and 30% of consumers prefer to shop at supermarkets for seasonal merchandise. "People are busy, and they don't want to run to two or three different stores," she said. "Grocery stores have responded to that [one-stop shopping approach]." She added that people get their Halloween candy at supermarkets, and they can pick up other accessories for the holiday as well.
However, Charles Yahn, vice president of nonfoods, Associated Wholesalers, York, Pa., said the holiday is more lackluster in the East. AWI only supplies basic Halloween costumes, inexpensive pumpkin kits and pumpkin trick-or-treat baskets that tie in with candy.
This year's best selling products will be costumes depicting animated television characters such as Digimon, Pokemon, and Dragon Ball Z, as well as characters from the popular movie "Chicken Run," according to Sprecher. Van Zant said candy dishes, decorative trick-or-treat bags, and safety blinker lights that clip on to a child's costume, bike, or scooter will also sell well.