Home Business & Economy Retail Halloween retail adapts during COVID pandemic

Halloween retail adapts during COVID pandemic

Costumes, candy and trick-or-treat.

Monday October 26, 2020 | VICTORIA, BC

by Kiley Verbowski for Island Social Trends | Mary Brooke, editor

Halloween is just around the corner, and that usually means the robust sale of costumes, face paint, candy, decorations, lights, animatronics, and so much more for celebrating the spooky seasonal holiday that comes once a year on October 31.

Halloween holiday retailers in Greater Victoria have likely adapted their product purchasing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (expecting reduced or altered demand). Like all businesses, retailers have developed and applied health and safety in-store protocols in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We took a look at how some Halloween season retailers have adapted.

Value Village

Cosplayers gathering outside Value Village in Victoria to celebrate their craft. [2014 West Shore Voice News file photo by Jennifer Brooke]

Value Village for years has been a go-to location for budget-friendly Halloween needs. In the past few years they have hired Halloween consultants and set up a “Halloween zone” including a curated selection of used costumes that are collected throughout the year, as well as a wide selection of new items. And in previous years they also extended their store hours, and encouraged employees to dress up in costume for the month of October.

This year is totally different. According to a past Halloween consultant, the position does not exist anymore, and neither does the “zone”. The Victoria Value Village location has the highest sales in Canada, and their largest financial quarter is the fall, says the consultant. That may not be the case this year.

Store hours have been reduced from 14 hours to now 10 hours (11 am to 9 pm), and the store’s maximum occupancy is half of its regular number. Employees are not as dressed up as usual, and in general, a current employee says, the spirit of Halloween is not as pervasive in the store this year.

Halloween consultants and managers typically start planning in August, and purchase around 14 pallets of new merchandise for the season based off of the previous year’s sales. This year, zero new product was purchased. Instead, leftover supplies were put out on shelves alongside a selection of used clothing, costumes, and accessories.

Island Social Trends talked to a current employee that says changes to the store’s Halloween plans were made with the cognizance that some holiday materials clearly promote partying, which is off the table this year. Although Value Village serves a variety of Halloween clientele, the teen and young adult population make up the largest demographic packing the store in weeks leading up to the big party weekend.

Spirit Halloween

The Spirit Halloween pop-up store in downtown Victoria. [Island Social Trends, by Kiley Verbowski]

Spirit Halloween is a large chain store with pop-up locations spanning Canada and the U.S. Their Vancouver Island store is located in Uptown Mall.

All of the appropriate health protocols are in place at Spirit, including a reduced store capacity and no change rooms. According to one manager in South Dakota, their location is even busier than last year.

Halloween Alley

Halloween Alley usually has a pop-up store in downtown Victoria selling costumes, wigs and props, but that location did not open this year due to COVID. They are operating stores in Prince George and Kelowna, as well as 11 other locations across Canada.  According to their website, their stores are “bigger and better than ever,” with some locations stocking two stores worth of merchandise.

Reduce, Reuse, and Save

An employee at the Uptown location told Island Social Trends that she expects lots of Harry Potters, witches, and vampires to come a-knocking this year, but also notes that a majority of their sales have been accessory items. It seems like lots of islanders are reusing large costume pieces from years past and reimagining the components with face paint, masks, hats, etc.

Perhaps more full costume kits will fly off the shelves as people realize how few days we have left until Halloween which comes up Saturday October 31.

Cosplay and creativity:

Of course, devoted cosplayers will not miss this season for creating and wearing their favourite creative costumes.

For people who don’t have time to create their own fancy or detailed costumes there are businesses that rent costumes, though this year with COVID-19 protocols that will be evermore carefully done.

Halloween candy:

Halloween candy section at London Drugs [Island Social Trends | Kiley Verbowski]

Stores like London Drugs and Shoppers Drug Mart stocked up with Halloween candy this year, and most of it has been selling well.

Householders who plan to give out candy are asked by the BC Centre for Disease Control to think carefully about COVID-19 safety protocols.

COVID, Halloween, 2020
Have a COVID-safe Halloween!

Halloween safety:

Halloween safety protocols during COVID-19 have been issued by the BC Centre for Disease Control.

“Celebrate less socially and trick-or-treat locally this Halloween!”

  • Skip Halloween parties this year, celebrate at home. Small family bubbles.
  • Trick or treating in small groups outdoors can be safe and fun but stay physically distanced.
  • Get creative in allowing space when handing out treats.