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Commentary: Halloween's impact on shopping center and retail industry


By Mike Kercheval, President and CEO, International Council of Shopping Centers

Fall is in the air and you know what that means: the holiday shopping season has already begun. But even as you see festive decorations start to pop up in shopping centers around the country, out of the corner of your eye you will also see the color orange marking another holiday of growing importance to retailers. Though the fever-pitch of Black Friday and Christmas starts earlier and earlier, don’t turn your attention away from the holiday that comes first in October as a great measure of consumer vitality--Halloween.

Consumers have seemingly become more and more be”witch”ed with Halloween lately as the holiday has seen steady demand and growth over the past years. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), nearly three-quarters (74%) of U.S. households plan to spend money on costumes, candy, decorations and Halloween-related items this season. The survey estimates that eight out of ten households plan to spend the same or more than they did in 2013, giving the holiday an estimated $11.3 billion price tag for 2014. This is good news for retailers because Halloween spending is considered non-essential, or discretionary, so all signs point toward a similar consumer sentiment during the holiday shopping season.

Looking ahead, this is also great news for shopping centers. ICSC notes that this Halloween, more than 90% of U.S. households will choose brick-and-mortar stores to make their final purchases. Consumers’ preference for in-store shopping stems from their desire to interact with products and get a true understanding of what they’re buying. This is especially important during Halloween when authenticity, fit and scare-factor of a costume can make or break your chances of winning the top prize in the school or office costume contest.

And let’s not forget the complete awe most shoppers feel as they walk through the candy aisles which have been transformed to a Willy Wonka-like setting. Shoppers hitting the stores for Halloween goodies or party favors are also a captive audience for other impulse and incremental purchases once they get swept up in holiday displays and promotions.

But a strong Halloween season isn’t just good news for retailers; it’s also great for families and communities, and shopping centers are taking notice. This year, shopping centers around the country will play host to a whole slew of Halloween-themed social events and activities to engage local residents. Children will get to show off their best tricks and scavenge for treats in malls across the country. In Pennsylvania, King of Prussia Mall will host Mall-O-Ween, a trick-or-treating experience for kids to go door-to-door, or store-to-store, to fill their jack-o-lanterns with sweet treats.

n California, Hillsdale Shopping Center’s Halloween “Spook”tacular will host several hours of trick-or-treating in the complex and will invite kids to create Halloween crafts to take home. Other shopping centers have put together a whole program of events to celebrate the day. Crossroads Bellevue Mall in Washington will offer photo opportunities to savor memories with your little witches and mummies, as well as balloon animals and live music. And Neshaminy Hills Mall in Pennsylvania invites every Frankenstein and Morticia to get down and boogie at their “Monster Mash Dance Party.” ICSC reports that out of the parents planning to take their children trick-or-treating this year, 17% will participate in a Halloween event sponsored by a mall or shopping center.

Don’t worry, parents, the kids aren’t the only ones allowed to dress up and enjoy the day. Shopping centers across the nation are dishing up fun for adults too. Franklin Mills Mall in Pennsylvania will hold the 21st Annual Ghosts, Goblins and Chariots Car Show, showcasing stock, modified, truck and street rod rides. Participants and attendees are encouraged to dress up for the chance to win the grand prize for best costume--and we expect they will.

All in all, the U.S. looks to be gearing up for a frighteningly good Halloween in 2014. With consumers showing a willingness to spend more on fun, non-essential purchases this fall, we can expect the tricks and treats to continue into that other well-known holiday shopping season just around the corner.
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