Halloween is the new Christmas

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Halloween is is full of opportunities for a broader variety of retailers, for a broader variety of reasons, says 22squared's strategy director.

At my house, we have been celebrating Halloween for weeks now. We’ve been working on decorations and costumes (yes, more than one per kid), going to play dates and "trunk or treats" and planning our trick-or-treating route. A one day holiday no longer, it’s a full-on obsession. My pre-school-mom friends start competing for the most-on-trend-yet-kid-friendly family costume. My colleagues are carefully crafting the most unique, chic-but-not-too-sexy costume of the year.

In fact, more and more Americans say Halloween is their favorite holiday, and they spend on it too, with an expected $9 billion in sales in 2017 according to the National Retail Federation. It’s the second favorite holiday (after Christmas) for millennials, according to the Harris Poll.

Right now, expected brands—like Walmart, Target and Mars— invest in Halloween as a key sales driver for the year. Many others participate on the fringes with one to two social posts, but they do not treat Halloween with the same media weight or inspiring creative as they bring for Thanksgiving or Christmas. But Halloween is a beloved consumer holiday and it should be treated that way. It is full of so many opportunities, for an even broader variety of retailers, for a broader variety of reasons. Here are some new approaches to consider:

Be the Inspiration
Planning and crafting the perfect Halloween season starts in early September. That is almost seven to eight weeks of Halloween obsessing. Consumers are looking for unique costume ideas, clever snacks and treats, super spooky decoration ideas. Searching for the perfect costume inspiration—and getting every detail right—leads consumers online and in-store.

Brands that participate and provide useful, actionable inspiration can win. For instance, Nordstrom, Saks and RueLala could provide costume ideas sorted by mood or audience (kid- friendly, the work costume, the on-trend costume, the nostalgic costume), along with home decorations and party ideas to match. Retailers like Marshall’s, TJ Maxx and shoe merchants like DSW or Shoe Carnival, who are already associated with the "hunt," also have an opportunity to bring the joy of the Halloween hunt to their brands. 

Close the Deal
In an era of declining foot traffic, Halloween is a great opportunity to capitalize on more consumers out and about, and on the hunt. After all, finding the perfect color shoes to go with your sexy "Fake News" costume could take you to several stores. Even retailers like Sephora or Ulta could position themselves as a go-to source for Halloween, taking them out of their expected role as just a place for gifts for the holidays. Can they create programs that draw people in for Halloween and then back again for Thanksgiving and Christmas? Can they formalize shopping schedules and routines with holiday updates?

Double Down on Fun
Why is this holiday growing like crazy? At its core, it is just pure fun. It is an opportunity to be someone else, to be a bit out of character. Brands can stand to stray from their rigid guidelines and have a little fun. And not just for one social post. Last year, Bacardi tried an immersive haunted house called "Nocturnal Awakening" in Brooklyn. WD-40 did a great campaign centered on an app that makes doors creakier for Halloween.

Beyond that, brands could help to expand the definition of the holiday to be about more than just candy and costumes. Perhaps with enough power from a brand like FitBit or JawBone, we could all start to think about the health and wellness side of Halloween! There’s a lot of walking, after all.

Halloween is growing bigger and bigger every year. Many brands are reacting to the consumer backlash against starting Christmas too soon, by confining it to November and December only. That just means we can really let Halloween shine all of October. It is time for more brands to join in and be part of the Halloween fun.

Megha Parikh is Strategy Director at 22squared and proud and disheveled mother of Deven (3) and Anika (2).