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Halloween As A Harbinger For The Holiday Season

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Two months ago, I would have told you that we were going to have a bang-up Halloween selling season, followed by a killer holiday season. All signs pointed in that direction. That was before Delta came along and got so many states and countries singing the Delta Blues.

Now? It’s very hard to predict.

According to Chain Store Age, Party City is pretty much ready for anything, but currently has plans to open 100 pop-up stores, vs. only 25 in 2020 (why did they open any, I wonder?) and 250 in 2019.

Now, it’s clear that the market is pretty saturated for pop-up stores. There’s no doubt that 250 was too many, and sales results made that apparent. Are 100 stores necessary? I guess it depends on market penetration in those areas and adjacent competitors.

But wait. How can a chain be ready for anything? Well, Halloween merchandise has some unique characteristics, and because of that uniqueness, the chain has a lot of flexibility.

Think about it. Reader, I don’t know how old you are, but I’ll bet many of your friends at any age dressed as pirates, ghosts, Cinderella, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, nurses, Frankenstein and Beatniks. Turns out most Halloween costumes are evergreen, and most retailers re-pack their Halloween goods at the end of the season. Any day now, it’s going to start appearing on retailers’ shelves.

Party City is also vertically integrated, so to some extent (not all, for sure) it can get additional product as needed if it runs short, particularly for paper products and decorations. Amscan and Party City are under the same public ownership (Party City Holdings, Inc.) now. Getting additional merchandise should be easy and quick.

All this begs the question: will there be a Halloween this year? Will parents be willing to let their kids go trick or treating? In schools, will there be Halloween parties? Ironically, Halloween and masks are synonymous, so generally that should work quite well.

Also, Halloween falls on a propitious day this year: a Sunday. That bodes well for grown-up Halloween parties the Saturday before, and in-school parties either Friday or Monday. It’s good for trick-or-treating as well.

As partner Brian Kilcourse said last year, RSR isn’t in the business of predicting sales. Nor are we epidemiologists. We are a hopeful bunch, though, and we’re hoping that Delta will have peaked and we’ll be getting back to where we were in July by the end of October. You really haven’t lived until you’ve experienced a Halloween product store the three days before Halloween. The number of people is stunning, and the energy is utterly frenetic. I’ve often said that on the Friday before Halloween, you could raise prices on adult costumes. People are simply desperate for something to wear to that party. If COVID is winding down a bit, it’s going to be off the charts. If it’s still raging… well… crickets.

It’s imperative that retailers understand where the hot spots are, staff up in advance, and make sure they’re prepared for anything. Anyone in the party supply business will tell you that EVERYONE is a competitor. Retailers from drug stores to Dollar Stores sell Halloween costumes, candy, and decorations. By now, everyone knows what their inventory position is…the question will be “Where should we send it?” That’s where technology can really help.

I confess that 21 years on, I still don’t miss being part of a party supply chain during this period, but I’ll also confess that I like to watch, and see what happens.

I’m thinking if Halloween sales are good, holiday season sales will be off the charts. It really is the harbinger. Here’s hoping! I don’t know about you, but I’m overdue ready for a good time!

Newsletter Articles August 17, 2021
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