(This column originally appeared in The Inquirer)
Many businesses see the holiday as a way to run special promotions, but to truly leverage the potential of a holiday, it takes planning — sometimes up to a year in advance.
Halloween is not only lots of fun for both kids and adults, but it’s also a great opportunity to boost sales and profits for the entrepreneurial business owner.
Halloween spending this year is expected to reach a record $12.2 billion, exceeding last year’s record of $10.6 billion, according to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation. More than 73% of people surveyed said they plan to participate in Halloween-related activities, which is up from 69% in the prior year.
“More Americans than ever will be reaching into their wallets and spending a record amount of money to celebrate Halloween this year,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Consumers will be shopping early for festive décor and other related items and retailers are prepared with the inventory to help customers and their families take part in this popular and fun tradition.”
Considering the potential profits, it’s little surprise that many business owners in the local area are taking advantage. And if you’re running a business, there’s still time to do the same.
Embrace the holiday spirit
One popular strategy is to lean into your community’s Halloween festivities.
“Halloween is one of the busiest times of year for our business and our community does a lot to get people engaged this time of year whether it is trick or treating at participating businesses or the trolley ride down Main Street,” said Dickey Valerio the general manager of Artesano Café, a coffee shop and bistro in Manayunk. “If your community is having similar activities, you should lean into its schedule.”
Valerio says that Manayunk has events year-round — but especially during holiday seasons — and that shop owners are encouraged to take part in.
Maureen B. Haff, who owns Sweet Magnolia, a boutique store in Glenside, says that her community is also very active this time of year with a “family fun day” near the holiday that includes a dog costume parade, food trucks, and activities for the kids.
“We love Halloween and so does the neighborhood,” Haff said. “If your business community has events around the holiday you should get involved.”
Of course, Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without a little dressing up and many retailers and restaurant owners like to encourage both their employees and customers to join in the fun.
“We decorate our club, and our staff loves to dress up in costumes,” said Mark DeNinno, who owns Chris’ Jazz Cafe in Philadelphia. “Halloween is a great time to add accents to your space and make a cozy feeling for celebrations.” DeNinno insists that decorating doesn’t have to be expensive, either.
“Twinkle lights and fall decorations can carry through to the end of November, and just a few Halloween accents can really make your space fun in October,” he said. “Costume parties always attract a crowd and we like to add Halloween-themed fun food and drink specials to make our place unique.”
To accommodate added traffic generated by events in its community, Galerie Marie, a boutique shop in Collingswood that sells original paintings, dolls, jewelry, and other artifacts, offers extended store hours.
“Collingswood is a big Halloween destination for local kids,” owner Kimberly Camp said. “It’s really important because it brings a lot of people into town and to the gallery who ordinarily wouldn’t come here. I stay open late to accommodate our town’s Halloween events and then I offer special Halloween discount coupons.”
Camp also takes advantage of her doll-making skills to create special attractions at her store.
“I always make witches for Halloween that are always popular. The one I made this year is ‘Mischief,’” Camp said, adding that the witch has a rabbit head, a little cricket on her broom, and a broom that color-coordinates with her outfit.
Leverage the potential of a holiday
Like Camp, many businesses see the holiday as a way to run special promotions.
For example, Megan Simmons who owns Sensory FIT in Exton — a specialized “sensory gym” that’s designed to help build independence, improve motor skills and increase communication for its customers — offers specialized Halloween-themed “sensory events” and partners with other businesses to attract new customers.
Simmons said that she uses the occasion to design and develop specialized Halloween-themed activities and sessions that align with the unique sensory needs of her clients.
“These activities may include tactile exploration with Halloween-themed sensory bins, visual stimulation through spooky light displays, auditory experiences with themed music and sounds, and opportunities for social interaction through group costume parties or sensory-friendly trick-or-treating events.”
Simmons also offers special Halloween-themed packages and discounts to encourage participation and attract new clients for the longer term, including “limited-time promotions such as discounted sessions, membership deals, or exclusive Halloween-themed merchandise.”
Successful business owners know that, to truly leverage the potential of a holiday like this one, it takes planning, and many start thinking ahead as early as the summer before. Radhi Fernandez, the owner of the FAIYA Company, an artisanal maker of hot sauces based in Kensington, said it’s important to prepare in advance.
“We try to purchase materials and special items much earlier so that we’re not in a rush” he said.
Fernandez decided earlier this year to use Halloween as a launch date for his latest hot sauce and is also selling a special “mystery box” on his website tied to the holiday.
“To succeed, you need to plan ahead and then use some promotional codes or discounts to encourage people to purchase,” he said. “To really take advantage of Halloween your incentives are not about the 10% less, it’s about the 50% more in sales.”