feature story

to fear

You don’t have to take risks on Halloween-specific product. Consumers are looking for transitional décor that looks great for the holiday and beyond.


Halloween spending is on the rise in the United States, and the latest trends show there is probably more opportunity for florists with this holiday than ever before. According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) “2005 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey,” spending was expected to reach nearly $3.3 billion, up 5.4 percent from $3.1 billion in 2004.

While the average person expected to spend between $48.50 and $51 on Halloween merchandise in 2005, much of the spending growth came from young adults. The NRF survey revealed that 18- to 24-year-olds planned to increase their spending 30.0 percent, from an average of $38.90 in 2004 to $50.75 in 2005. And spending by 25- to 34-year-olds was expected to rise 14.0 percent, from an average of $54.80 in 2004 to $62.45 in 2005.

This is a sign that the market continues to open up to florists and other retailers who don’t target the license-dominated children’s segment of the holiday. Adults want to tap into their inner child at Halloween, but they’re also adding sophistication to the Halloween look.

“There’s a blurring of the line between kids and grown-ups when it comes to Halloween,” says Meredith Schwartz, business editor at Gifts & Decorative Accessories magazine. “A lot of stuff, like Superman, is now retro and nostalgic for Gen X [25- to 40-year-olds]. I think that ties in with why Halloween is becoming more popular with adults. You don’t feel as if you have to outgrow it.”

According to at least one survey, she’s right. The “Shopping in America Halloween 2005” survey, conducted for The Macerich Company, which owns, develops and manages regional malls across the country, polled more than 4,300 consumers nationwide and found that 38 percent of them think you’re never too old to trick-or-treat.
top five halloween decor 
trends for 2006
1 Decorations that are more sophisticated and grown up
2 Seasonal motifs, like scarecrows and pumpkins, that transition from Halloween
    through fall and Thanksgiving

3 Less orange, and more purple, black, white and cream, and “monster” green (orange is
    more of an accent color)

4 Wizard and magic themes
5 Halloween ornaments

decorations are growing up
Apparently, consumers are never too old to dress up their homes for Halloween, either. The NRF survey showed that some 47 percent of consumers planned to decorate their homes or yards last year. The “Shopping in America” survey was even more optimistic, revealing that around 62 percent of its respondents planned to decorate.

“Our January 2006 [gift] show was one of the biggest ever, and we definitely did well with fall product,” says Carla Meehan, marketing coordinator of burton + Burton, in Bogart, Ga. “We already have several back-orders reserved for fall product because retailers want to make sure they have it.”

Ms. Schwartz says Halloween décor is growing up along with the audience. The designers at Seasons of Cannon Falls, the seasonal décor brand of the gift company Midwest, in Cannon Falls, Minn., have seen the same thing.

“Our best-selling collection this year is more sophisticated and vintage-looking,” says Shelli Lissick, referring specifically to Midwest’s “Bewitching Hour” collection of Halloween home accents. “We have several whimsical and brighter-colored collections that are more kid-friendly, but we’re definitely seeing a shift in what our retailers are buying. It’s more of an adult look.”

Another sign of the holiday’s maturation is that bold colors seem to be out. “There’s somewhat of a de-emphasis on orange and an emphasis on blacks and whites and purples, with orange used as more of an accent color,” Ms. Schwartz shares. The purples she cites derive from the popularity of the novels and films about boy wizard Harry Potter, and the almost-Gothic look lends naturally to Halloween. And with the publication date of the next Potter book hanging in the balance, the multimedia juggernaut will remain in the public consciousness this fall.

“We’re also seeing more wizard and magic themes for this Halloween, thanks to Harry Potter,” Ms. Schwartz notes. “Witches have always been around, but now they’re more sympathetic.”

blending holiday and décor
The Potter influence dovetails nicely with an everyday design direction in home décor. “With the purples, golds and silvers, we’re seeing a resurgence of opulence and almost a feeling of royalty,” says Becky Boswell Smith, editor-in-chief of Home Accents Today. “Two years ago, we were saying the new classics were less ornate. Now we’re seeing them move toward more decorative elements, with more of a European styling.”

So if candlesticks or an ornate silver picture frame would look at home in Hogwarts, the fictional boarding school in the Harry Potter franchise, they will be perfect for a cross-merchandised Halloween display this season.

There are, however, a few unexpected décor trends for the holiday. “I’ve seen more ornaments for Halloween from companies that do traditional resin or blown-glass Christmas ornaments,” Ms. Schwartz points out. “When I first saw them, I didn’t think they’d ever sell through, but they have.” Consumers are displaying Halloween ornaments in a variety of ways, including on gnarly Halloween “trees” made especially for ornament display as well as on traditional ornament displays often designed to showcase individual ornaments.
halloween facts and figures

Halloween is second only to Christmas as the biggest decorating holiday on the American calendar, with around 60 percent of consumers purchasing decorations.*
In one preholiday survey, 47 percent of consumers said they planned to decorate their homes last Halloween.* In another, that number reached 62 percent.†
Last year’s consumer spending was expected to grow 5.4 percent to $3.3 billion (including candy and costume sales).* Candy accounts for $1.16 billion, or about 35.3 percent, of total Halloween merchandise sales.*
Most of the growth in Halloween spending is coming from the adult demographic, particularly the 18-to-34-year-old segment.*
Average consumer spending on Halloween-related merchandise last year ranged from $48.50* to $51.†
More than half of Americans—the estimates range from 52.5 percent* to 58 percent†—took part in Halloween activities last year. Parties with friends and relatives were the most common events.
Some 38 percent of American consumers think you’re never too old to trick-or-treat.†

* National Retail Federation (NRF) “2005 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey” conducted by BIGresearch.
“Shopping in America Halloween 2005” survey, conducted for The Macerich Company by August Partners.


seasonal transition
Even the unconventional concept of Halloween ornaments taps into a prevalent undercurrent in Halloween décor trends: Consumers want items they can get more mileage out of by displaying them longer. That concept feeds into the other main design trend for grown-up Halloween décor: the fall/harvest theme.

Ms. Meehan says that this year burton + Burton is having great success with themes that can carry over after Halloween. For example, she says the company’s scarecrow garden stakes and pumpkin motifs are the hottest sellers because of the versatility they offer both retailers and consumers. Those products also can serve as holiday décor for Thanksgiving.

“Lots of times, people are buying things that accomplish both goals,” Ms. Meehan explains. “They’ll buy big pumpkins and put them in their yards or use them as centerpieces from before Halloween until after Thanksgiving.”

“Fall has become such a great opportunity for our customers to increase their business because consumers are really expanding their seasonal home decorating at that time of the year,” agrees Mike Stadlberger, executive vice president of merchandising at Aldik. “Halloween transitions almost seamlessly into Thanksgiving.”

Once again, the fall seasonal look coincides with everyday trends in home décor. “Fall colors are nice and strong in general,” says Ms. Smith, “and then the whole eco/nature feeling is a strong market, and the harvest look includes natural materials.”

In terms of color, Ms. Smith says copper metallic is the trend in harvest. And Deb Weidenbach, director of product development at Sullivans, in Sioux Falls, S.D., cites earthier greens.

“Our collection of olive-colored foliages is doing well,” she says. “People like them because they can carry them into all seasons. [Olive] is a great decorative color.”

Mr. Stadlberger also sees muted greens being strong this fall. “We’re staying away from brights and trying to get as botanically correct as we can with our colors,” he says. “We’re also incorporating more twig vines, acorns and fruit—the bountiful look is more popular this year than ever. Texture is the key, though; it has to be interesting.”

Like the Harry Potter-inspired and vintage looks, harvest décor trends reflect the growing sophistication of the Halloween season. More adults may be acting like little kids on the holiday, but they’re still decorating like grown-ups.

Chris Gigley is an author, speaker and freelance writer who has covered the gift and stationery market for more than a decade. He resides in Greensboro, N.C. You may contact him by e-mail at cgigley@yahoo.com.

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