While much is made about the Christmas rush, Halloween can also be a chaotic time for stores.
The reason is partly because much of the spending is in a compressed time frame as revelers seek out last-minute costumes and candy purchases. According to a survey from Alliance Data Retail Services (ADRS), a marketing and customer loyalty solutions provider, one third of Halloween spenders start spending one week before the holiday, one third two weeks before, and one third one month before.
Further underscoring the rush, xAd, a mobile-location based advertising platform, noted in its analysis of 2012 Halloween-driven mobile searches that 34 percent of Halloween-related mobile searches occurred the weekend prior to Halloween with 23 percent occurring just hours before the first trick-or-treaters arrive.
In a column penned for Forbes, Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at RSR
Research and a RetailWire BrainTrust panelist, related her past experience working retail in the days before Halloween.
"People come in the stores, ransack the costume racks, try things on right on the selling floor (we sure didn't have dressing rooms), and basically leave them on the floor when they are done," wrote Ms. Rosenblum. Crews would then spend most of the night in "recovery," reassembling and putting the costumes back into boxes.
The last minute procrastinators, willing to "pay anything for a reasonably acceptable costume," support full-price sales until the closing hours on Halloween. On the other hand, with the exception of decorations, there is generally no after-market for Halloween merchandise. With most costumes (nurses, pirates, etc.) remaining relevant year after year, most of the merchandise is re-packed and sent back to warehouses until the following August.
"This might actually be a good thing for retailers by now, as it allows them to do their store and web site resets for 'The' Holiday season," Ms. Rosenblum writes. "But between October 15 and November 2, anything goes."
Overall, average spending on Halloween has increased 54.7 percent since 2005, with total spending estimated to reach $6.9 billion in 2013, according to NRF's Halloween Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. Nearly 158 million consumers will participate in Halloween activities this year. Those celebrating will spend $75.03, down from $79.82 last year.
The survey showed that on major categories:
Do most retailers appear to be underplaying or overplaying the opportunity around Halloween spending?