Cool décor, tricks and treats keep business ‘BOO'ming
With more than 65 million trick-or-treaters prowling the streets of America on Oct. 31, it's no wonder that manufacturers and retailers are excited and optimistic about this Halloween each year.
"Consumers anticipate seeing traditional decorations using pumpkin, skeleton and witch art, but they often will buy on impulse when they see something that is unusual and different," said Dave Goode, vice president of marketing at The Beistle Co. "After all, these are the decorations that really get the neighbors talking."
Goode continues to see strong consumer interest in many of Beistle's more gory products, including its bloody wall and catacombs backdrops, refrigerator door covers and toilet toppers. They've recently seen a trend toward funny and unusual products-back seat driver clings, restroom door covers and crashing witch Instaviews have been big hits.
"Some of our product ideas are generated internally through our creative design team, and our customers also provide suggestions that result in many new products," Goode said. "I believe the consumer interest (in Halloween) will remain strong, and we look forward to introducing new items to the marketplace in the months ahead."
When you're in the party industry, it's all about finding something new and exciting, said Debbie Beer, vice president of marketing for Unique Industries. And while the pumpkin is an obvious go-to for décor, product designers enjoy putting some stylistic spins on them.
"You can put all kinds of design twists on a pumpkin," Beer said. "We've got a neat product called Pumpkin Grin, which is going to have some glowing accents of orange around more of a black base. Piñatas, especially pumpkin ones, are a good seller for us and so are foil banners, but when we can add new artwork on it, people want it."
Window clings, banners and different sized cutouts remain very popular décor items because they coordinate with the paperware, pumpkins, ghosts, bats and spiders. Beer anticipates that home décor will likely grow even further in 2012, thanks to grocery and dollar stores capitalizing on Halloween.
All Dressed Up
"Halloween is our big season," said Cheryl Kerzner, vice president of product design and marketing at Disguise Inc., the costume division of JAKKS Pacific. "We do well with any major movie; if the DVD releases come out prior to Halloween, we get a lot of sales off of that."
For its licensed products, Disguise tries to stretch the limits of creativity within very specific character requirements.
"We have some restrictions in terms of what the licensors will let us do, and over the past few years, we've really pushed the envelope," Kerzner said. "We made all the Sesame characters frilly and fun for little girls in dress format which has done very well, and we've created sassy costumes using characters, like our Women of Marvel line."
While classic costumes and branded products are always successful, Kerzner's team is constantly introducing innovative products, and she said they're able to look at trends and translate those (ideas) into Halloween costumes.
"Treat holders are especially popular for little ones," Kerzner noted. "We make character ones for some of our top costumes. We also have some reusable options; this year we're doing recyclable pellon bags."
Disguise's line of body parts still flies off the shelves and body art is another fast-growing market. In 2012, Disguise will add a line of licensed glitter tattoo kits, which include includes a licensed stencil, medical-grade adhesive, and glitter to sprinkle on.
"They're really cool, because they last for a few days," Kerzner said. "They're fabulous for people of all ages. We're also doing face tattoos for our Women of Marvel collection."
Get an Edge
Party stores looking for an edge to attract customers need to do more than carry the basics, noted Adriane Brandenburg, store manager of Fun Party & Wedding Services in Shawnee, Kan.
"There's more temporary business than ever, along with everyone looking for a deal, so we're always listening to the ‘Do you have's?' and making it happen," she said. "While you have to have the basics like face paint and vampire teeth, we carry brands you can't pick up at the corner drugstore. Customers really appreciate value, service and getting what they want. Having someone who will dress them head to toe at a fair price is what they want and we do our best to deliver."
Halloween does so well for retailers because of its long shelf life.
"Basically, back-to-school and Halloween go hand in hand," Beer said. "By the end of September, the stores are full of Halloween merchandise."
Although many party products are merchandised directly on retailers' shelves, Goode says the best way to drive sales with Halloween décor items is to actually use them to decorate the store. A well-lit store packed with party elements reminds people about Halloween, and customers are much more likely to purchase a product when they see a sample out of the package and in use.
"As soon as the calendar flips to September, put pumpkins everywhere - in the window, at the cash register - because it gets the consumers thinking about Halloween even if they're not quite ready to make a purchase," Beer said. "Hang a banner from the ceiling. Play some Halloween music or sound effects."
Beer suggests retailers take advantage of color-coordinated product lines to really make displays pop.
"All of Unique's core components of a paper pattern - beverage and lunch napkins, dessert and dinner plates, cups and table covers - are in floor displays or counter displays," she said. "When retailers are laying out a display table, it's fun to alternate the components: put out black and orange solid-colored paperware, tableware and cutlery mixed with printed napkins and plates."
Brandenburg believes in going vertical.
"I bought and hung some really cool bats, skeletons and creepy clowns that were animated," she said. "We priced them right and sold out of them, plus it helped to add to the haunting nature of Halloween.
"People were in the mood to buy decorative props this year, and after attending a ‘Trunk or Treat' myself, I saw that small, portable props really add a lot of fun to the environment," she continued. "Battery operated and animated items will be on my list to buy more of in 2012."
By Wendy Helfenbaum
Special to Party & Paper