It will be interesting to see what kind of masks trick-or-treaters wear this Halloween — if they venture out at all. Party City is betting people won’t be celebrating as much this year as in years past. Ben Unglesbee (@Ben_Unglesbee) reports, “Party City plans to open just 25 pop-up stores under its Halloween City banner this year as it navigates a holiday disrupted by the pandemic. … The number of stores represents a 91% reduction compared to last year’s announcement of 275 Halloween pop-ups.” Unglesbee observes, “Not only is COVID-19 shaping how people buy, it’s also changing Halloween itself. According to Party City’s survey data, 96% of parents still plan to celebrate Halloween this year, but 70% are seeking alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating.”
Pandemic effect may be minimal
If surveys are accurate, the effect the pandemic has on Halloween celebrations might not be as severe as you might think. According to Unglesbee, “Survey data from Prosper Insights & Analytics conducted for the National Retail Federation shows that 10% fewer people plan to throw or attend a Halloween party this year, while 7% fewer plan to hand out candy, 7% fewer plan to go to a haunted house and 6% fewer plan to go trick-or-treating. But 4% more people plan to decorate their house, and the number of people planning to dress in costume has decreased only slightly, by 1%.” In addition, he notes, “The NRF data [indicates] spending on Halloween overall is estimated to decline only slightly, coming in $8.05 billion for the year compared with $8.78 billion a year ago.”
Bridget Goldschmidt (@BGoldschmidtPG), Managing Editor at Progressive Grocer, indicates millennials may be the ones to thank for keeping the spirit of Halloween alive. She reports, “In a survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of NCA, 74% of Millennial moms and young parents said that the annual scare fest is more important than ever this year, given the health and economic difficulties that Americans are currently facing.” She adds, “Despite pandemic worries, Halloween will still happen — with a few adjustments. According to a poll conducted by data intelligence company Morning Consult for the National Confectioners Association (NCA), 63% of adults said that people will find creative, fun and safe ways to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve in 2020.”
Safe and creative ways to celebrate Halloween during the pandemic
With 70% of parents seeking alternatives to trick-or-treating, Christopher Gindlesperger, Senior Vice President of public affairs at the National Confectioners Association (NCA), asserts, “People are going to have to get creative this year, but that doesn’t mean that they have to sit this year out.” Journalists Amelia Lucas and Melissa Repko (@melissa_repko) write, “For some, knocking on doors and getting bags of candy from strangers may lose its appeal as people limit their social circles. Office candy bowls will remain empty. And Halloween costume parties may be scaled down or canceled.” They note some of the creative ways parents are thinking about celebrating the holiday include: “Instead of going door-to-door … families [are] planning to host candy scavenger hunts, tie individually-wrapped treats to a tree in the front yard, or have trick-or-treating stops for their kids in different rooms of their own home. Some neighborhoods plan to have socially distanced costume parades before returning home to enjoy bags of candy purchased for their own households.”
If children and their parents decide to roam neighborhoods participating in traditional trick-or-treating, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommend everyone to “wear a mask at all times when around people who don’t live in your household to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.” The CDC also states, “Do not use a costume mask (such as for Halloween) as a substitute for a cloth mask unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers your mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around your face. Do not wear a costume mask over a cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.” If you want to celebrate Halloween, the CDC recommends these lower risk activities as safe alternatives:
- Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
- Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
- Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
- Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
- Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
- Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
- Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house
If you feel like you absolutely must participate in traditional treat-or-treating, the CDC recommends “participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard).” One last word of advice is to bring hand sanitizer and use it after each stop.
What’s Halloween without candy?
Goldschmidt reports, “The Harris Poll found that a vast majority of respondents said that they couldn’t imagine Halloween without chocolate and candy, and that the practice of trick-or-treating was irreplaceable — that included 80% of the general public and 90% of Millennial moms and young parents.” Confectioners are delighted that people believe Halloween without candy is unthinkable. NCA’s Gindlesperger states, “It’s our Super Bowl. It’s our World Cup moment.” In fact, Lucas and Repko report, “Halloween is the biggest sales driver for the chocolate, candy, gum and mints industry, surpassing other seasons like Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas. It makes up about $4.6 billion of the industry’s $36 billion annual revenue, according to the National Confectioners Association.” Fortunately, for candy makers it looks like it’s going to be a good year. Dee-Ann Durbin (@deeanndurbin_ap) reports, “U.S. sales of Halloween candy were up 13% over last year in the month ending Sept. 6, according to data from market research firm IRI and the National Confectioners Association. That’s a bigger jump than the usual single-digit increases. Sales of Halloween chocolate alone are up 25%.”
Proedge provided the following infographic about “which traditions and treats will be front and center this Halloween.”
No one wants to remove the joy from Halloween celebrations; however, we do want to ensure that those celebrations are conducted safely. Happy Halloween.
 Ben Unglesbee, “Party City to open 91% fewer Halloween pop-ups this year,” Retail Dive, 23 September 2020.
 Bridget Goldschmidt, “Millennials Have Hope for Halloween,” Path to Purchase IQ, 11 August 2020.
 Amelia Lucas and Melissa Repko, “Scavenger hunts, treats dangling from a tree and Covid-19 maps: Candy makers get creative to save Halloween,” CNBC, 20 September 2020.
 Staff, “Holiday Celebrations,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 September 2020.
 Dee-Ann Durbin, “Americans load up on candy, trick or treat – or not,” AP, 23 September 2020.
 Staff, “Halloween 2020: Spooks & Sweets or a Holiday Hiatus?” Proedge Blog, 3 September 2020.