Halloween: It’s Not Just about the Candy

It’s not a shock that candy sales ramp up in October for Halloween, just like they do in December for Christmas, in February for Valentine’s Day, and in March or April for Easter. “But I don’t sell candy,” you say. “Why should I care about Halloween?”

Even if your products are not in a highly seasonal category, it’s important to understand where shoppers are going, what product choices they’re making, and how trends change around certain holidays if you want to increase market share.

Where Are Shoppers Going Leading Up to Halloween?

Let’s take a look at where shoppers went from October 18-31, 2016. InfoScout’s shopper metrics data tells us that the Food (28.2%) and Mass (21.7%) channels claimed about half of all store trips.

But when we dig deeper to see how share of trips changed during this period compared to the rest of the year, we see that Mass saw a 1.2-point increase. This may not seem significant, but when you project that increase across millions of trips, that translates to a high number of transactions that could have an impact on your share.

The Craft channel also increased share of trips by 11%. This isn’t surprising when you think about people celebrating Halloween by decorating and making costumes.

Halloween Shopping Channel Preference by Generation

Looking at share of trips during the Halloween season, we can see that Millennials like to shop at specialty stores. Millennials over-indexed significantly with Craft stores (+20%) and to a lesser extent with Department Stores (in particular with Spirit Halloween).

Generation X is more likely to shift trips to the Dollar channel – perhaps so they can pick up cheap candy, decorations, and materials for a DIY costume. Gen X is also shopping Craft, but to a lesser extent than Millennials.

The increase in trip share for Drug stores was the most dramatic shift for Boomers. Even if they’re not actively participating in Halloween, they can still pick up a bag or two of candy while they’re shopping for other items.

Channel shifts occur during the weeks leading up to Halloween, and these shifts vary from generation to generation. If shoppers are making trips to different channels, and you have distribution in these channels, you may want to adjust your marketing to account for these changes and grow market share.

What Are Shoppers Buying Leading Up to Halloween?

According to InfoScout Shopper Metrics data from 2016, Produce and Beverage had the two highest shares of basket. This is almost always going to be the case. Not surprisingly, Candy saw a 12% jump in share of baskets during this period, the largest increase of any channel. But it’s not just about candy — 91% of Candy trips had more than candy in the basket.

InfoScout Basket Affinity data tells us that candy has high penetration and purchase frequency throughout the year, but looking at basket affinity for Halloween is not enough. You need to see what shifts are happening. This requires you to look at the index for basket affinity for Halloween compared to the entire year.

There are four macro categories– Snacks, Meal Solutions, Baking and Cooking, and Canned Foods – that were more likely to be purchased with candy around Halloween than the rest of the year. In fact, Stocks and Broths, Frosting/Icings and Decorations, Canned Soups, Baking Chips and Bars, and Canned Vegetables all over-indexed by double digits.

What If Your Products have Nothing to Do With Halloween?

Let’s look at Skin Care as an example. According to InfoScout Product Cross Purchase data, 54% of households buy both Skin Care and Candy. 81% buy both Skin Care and Snacks. 59% buy both Skin Care and Baking.

Skin Care may not seem like a natural affinity, but it’s important to know where these category shoppers are cross-purchasing during weeks leading up to Halloween.

It’s also important to know which retailers are winning and losing as a result of seasonal shifts. For example, Kroger had the lowest Skin Care closure rate in October 2016. Much of that leakage went to the Dollar and Drug channels, which showed significant increases in share of wallet among non-closers.

Key Holidays Matter, Regardless of What You Sell

Holidays have an impact on where and what shoppers buy. Understanding how channel and product choices shift during key holidays can give your brand a competitive edge.

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