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The spookiest part of Halloween this year might be the slump in spending

Just 28 percent of people plan to greet trick-or-treaters, according on one survey.
Image: Halloween
Halloween 2020 won't be the way it was in previous years. More people than ever plan to skip the festivities altogether, and almost half of households say they will be cutting back on the candy.Lewis Geyer / MediaNews Group via Getty Images file

When it comes to Halloween 2020, more people than ever will be skipping out on the festivities — and that may end up spooking retailers.

In a normal year, 55 percent of households greet trick or treaters at the door. This year, just 28 percent said they would do that, according to a recent consumer insights survey from Advantage Solutions, a market research company. Of those surveyed, just 54 percent said they plan to spend the same amount on candy as previous years.

“If trick-or-treat tends to be a little lower than expectation, clearly, we’ll focus even more on the ‘treat for me’ and the ‘candy bowl’ occasion,” said Michelle Buck, CEO of the Hershey Company, during the company’s second quarter earnings call in July. Half of its Halloween candy is usually purchased for "self-consumption," she said.

“It is an outdoor event, and it’s an event where a lot of masks are already worn. There’s no evidence of the virus being passed through packaging or food, so we feel pretty good based on what we’re seeing so far from consumer feedback," Buck said.

The pandemic-induced shift is also forcing Halloween mecca Party City to re-evaluate its plans.

The company commissioned a survey that found 96 percent of parents say they will celebrate Halloween this year, but 70 percent of them will find alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating. The retailer is pushing alternative ways to celebrate Halloween, such as promoting home decor and party goods to help revelers have socially distanced fun with their neighbors.

“For those seeking ways to safely spread seasonal fun, more than half of respondents plan to drop Halloween goodie bags at doorsteps as a contact-free way to surprise friends and loved ones — in costumes, of course,” the company said in a news release last month.

Nicole Pomije, mom of a two-and-a-half-year-old in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and owner of The Cookie Cups bakery, said this Halloween will be different for her family due to the pandemic. However, she hopes to find a different way to make it fun.

“We will spend less this Halloween,” she told NBC News. “We will not be trick or treating but may do a small Halloween party at our bakery so the kids can dress up and have a ‘mask’ contest."

Despite the frightening Halloween spending forecasts, Dollar Tree CEO Michael Witynski said the company adjusted its strategy in March when the coronavirus shutdown orders came, and decided then to not focus on traditional Halloween categories. It’s a move that he said is paying off, according to a transcript from the company’s second quarter earnings call last month.

“In March, the merchant team took action to make adjustments in Halloween buys and derisk the category, much less focus on traditional trick or treating and large gatherings and more focus on decorations and customs,” he said. “We are seeing very nice trends regarding the early sales related to Fall Harvest and Halloween.”

Lindsay Feldman, who lives in Las Vegas with her 5-year-old daughter, said she plans to spend more to make it a memorable Halloween since her daughter can’t go trick or treating.

“I think a handful of my neighbors and friends will get a bounce house so the kids can play, and get a few different tables for each family to stand behind and lay out pre-wrapped Halloween goodie bags for kids to ‘trick or treat’ and grab,” she said. “We will most likely order pizzas and probably a snow cone machine or popcorn maker, just to make it a little more festive and fun.”