Will Superstorm Sandy wash out Halloween?
Trick-or-treating and parties may be ruined, but many retailers already took their cut.
Yes, New York City's East Village is inundated, millions are without power and the East Coast is dealing with issues far more grave than stock market and store closures, but what are all the cool kids talking about? Halloween.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie set the tone on Monday night as Jersey Shore towns were getting slammed with massive swells of seawater and northern cities were dealing with flooding, downed trees, power outages and imposed curfews. His calming words to the masses via Twitter: "If conditions are not safe on Wednesday for Trick or Treating, I will sign an Executive Order rescheduling #Halloween."
So there you have it. If New Jersey's chief executive, who declared a state of emergency just days earlier, thinks Halloween trick-or-treating and candy and costume spending are big storm-related issues, it must be so. Even if it's only his daughter Bridget who's actually concerned, Christie's statement doesn't make the potential economic impact on Target (TGT), Wal-Mart (WMT), Amazon (AMZN) and other retail outlets serving his state any less frightening.
But yes, Bridget, there is a Halloween. It does not exist as certainly as love and generosity and devotion in the 18 or so states affected by Sandy, but because the National Retail Federation and its retail partners have willed it into being. The organization predicted Halloween spending would reach $8 billion, with Americans spending an average of $80 on candy, costumes and decorations. Roughly 70% of those polled by the NRF said they planned to participate in Halloween events this year, but those events could be curtailed a bit by hurricane cleanup.
No trick or treating for little kids? No parties flowing with pumpkin ale for their parents at local bars and pubs? It won't matter much to big retailers. NRF spokeswoman Kathy Grannis told Ad Age those super-sized shops already got their goodies this holiday season.
"Even with last-minute shoppers, the majority of shoppers likely shopped this weekend before the storm was around," Grannis said. "It will likely have an impact on small retailers who are specifically in the business of Halloween... and bars and restaurants who were planning Halloween events. If they don't have locations across the country, they'll likely feel the pinch. For large retailers and chain stores, this is not going to impact their bottom line."
That may give retailers some welcome relief, but Halloween doesn't do as much for their bottom line as just about every other holiday on the calendar. The $8 billion the NRF's predicting still puts Halloween dead last on market research firm IBISWorld's holiday retail list. It's not only a fraction of the $14 billion IBISWorld says is spent on Easter, but less than half of the nearly $18 million stores rake in on Valentine's Day. As for the winter holidays, forget it. That $8 billion may be a couple days' worth of spending in a $135 billion holiday season.
While putting trick-or-treat candy on the porch in a neighborhood full of downed power lines or missing a chance to show off an election year candidate costume at the local pub are scary propositions, at least the folks who sold all those chocolates, candy corns and Obama and Romney masks have nothing to fear.
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