This Halloween is going to be a blowout

Last year, Halloween entailed homemade candy chutes — pipes that allowed people to send candy down to costumed children without getting too close — and pre-packaged goody bags left on stoops, curbs and outdoor tables.

This year, families are eager to get back to trick or treating. That’s good news for stores, which are looking forward to a banner year.

The National Retail Federation expects Halloween spending to hit a record $10.14 billion, according to a survey it conducts each year through Prosper Insights and Analytics, a firm that uses data to track and predict consumer behavior. This year’s survey was conducted from September 1 to September 8, with about 8,000 consumers participating.

Candy and chocolate sales are already soaring above 2020 levels, according to the National Confectioners Association, a trade group. Retail sales of chocolate and candy were $74 million in the four weeks ending on September 5, 2021, up 42% from the same period in 2020, said Christopher Gindlesperger, spokesperson for the National Confectioners Association, citing data from market research firm IRI.

“People are just looking forward to being able to celebrate,” said Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insight for food and drink for research firm Mintel. “Kids have been so buttoned down.” This year, Mogelonsky expects trick or treating to be “a lot more up close and personal.”

More candy earlier

Major retailers are starting the season earlier or stocking up on more candy this year to seize on shopper enthusiasm.

Kroger is “ordering more sweet treats” because “we believe there will be a higher demand for candy this year compared to last year,” a company spokesperson said.

Walmart brought candy to shelves a little earlier this year, according to a spokesperson.

The chain is also strategic about how to display its assortment. In setting up its shelves, Walmart moved candy corn into its seasonal aisle first, the spokesperson said, explaining that it’s a top seller early in the season. Later on, closer to Halloween, bagged candy is more popular.

Some suppliers have also noticed that this year is different.

Mars Wrigley, which makes M&Ms, Twix, Skittles and more, said that this year, stores ordered more candy early in the season.

That’s a change from last year, when regulations designed to curb the Covid-19 pandemic were still in place. Because of the uncertainty of that time, some retailers were more “conservative” in their early Halloween orders from Mars Wrigley, said Tim LeBel, president of sales for Mars Wrigley US.

“No one really knew what Halloween 2020 was going to look like,” he said. The company stopped selling its largest variety pack, which includes 455 pieces of 3 Musketeers, Milky Way, Twix and Snickers because it did not anticipate a big trick-or-treating season.

For stores, there’s good reason to place Halloween candy on shelves earlier.

With some products, like laundry detergent, earlier displays don’t translate to higher sales. But with candy, longer seasons tend to mean more purchases because early shoppers will likely end up eating the candy well before Halloween — and coming back for more.

“Consumers will often buy when things are presented to them,” said Neil Saunders, retail analyst and managing director at GlobalData. “If you put Halloween candy out early, consumers will pick it up,” especially if there are deals or promotions.

This year especially, it makes sense for stores to put up their Halloween displays earlier because shoppers, aware of supply chain disruptions, may want to buy candy in advance, he said.

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