With the goal of broadening their appeal to kids and families year-round, toy retailers and vendors are increasingly looking to Halloween to scare up more business.
‘Halloween has always been an important selling holiday for us, but strategically, it’s becoming more critical as a touch point to build sales outside of Christmas and the big summer movie release period,’ says Michael Tabakin, director of trend merchandise at Toys `R’ Us.
After Christmas, Halloween is the second largest revenue-producing holiday, pulling in more than US$4.5 billion in sales last year, according to the National Retail Federation. The hottest Halloween sellers continue to be costumes, candy and decoration kits. Candy alone brought in US$2 billion in 1998, according to the National Confectioners Association. For toy vendors who have seen their businesses hit hard in the past year by scaled-back retail orders, selling candy is proving to be a way to make up the shortfall.
‘Halloween is like Christmas for the candy business,’ says Tom Prichard, GM of Cap Candy, a division of toy manufacturer OddzOn Inc. Hasbro, which owns OddzOn, purchased Cap Candy (then known as Cap Toys) in 1997, and soon after merged the two companies. Prichard says Hasbro bought the company to diversify its stable of products, and to sell merchandise to a different set of buyers, but Cap Candy is now finding that more and more retailers are discovering they have a sweet tooth. ‘Because of the bad toy season last year, I’m getting a lot of calls from toy buyers wanting to buy our products and put them in the toy aisles of their stores,’ Prichard says.
Under the Cap Candy brand, OddzOn produces two types of Halloween candies-a value line, which retails for under US$.20 each, and several types of novelty confections, with price points that run as high as US$10. The novelty items are the most popular candies the company produces, says Prichard. In most instances, they’ve taken the classic parental scold, ‘don’t play with your food,’ and turned it on its head. Case in point: the Monster Mouth.
‘It’s a mouth made of candy with a lollipop tongue that you can push out and suck on,’ says Prichard. Monster Mouth’s killer app? If kids grow tired of it, they can put the tongue back in the mouth and chomp on it later. New for this Halloween, the Monster Mouth sells for US$1.99, and comes in Frankenstein and Dracula versions. For more high-tech fare, Cap Candy offers Sound Bites (US$6.99), which are lollipops that contain a sound chip. When you suck on a Sound Bite, the chip vibrates through your jaw bone up to your inner ear, enabling you to hear voices and sound effects. This year, Cap Toys will debut a new Sound Bite that has a chip that allows users to pick up FM radio stations.
Another toy company trying to get a piece of the candy biz is Plainview, New York-based Toymax International, which launched its candy division, Candy Planet, in February. Last month, Candy Planet inked a licensing deal with the WWF to produce a line of candies modeled after the Federation’s wrestlers. Though the WWF candies are not exclusive Halloween items, Toymax believes ‘the sinister and spooky appearance of wrestlers like Gravedigger will be consistent with the Halloween motif, and expects sales to pick up in October,’ according to Kent Price, the company’s senior VP of marketing and sales.
Licensors of kids properties are also hoping to cash in on Halloween. Parachute Licensing is trying to position its Goosebumps property as the official brand of Halloween, says Nancy Overfield-Delmar, a retail and licensing consultant for the company. This month, Overfield-Delmar and Parachute will be in Chicago attending the 15th National Halloween Costume & Party Show, an annual conference for vendors and retailers that runs from March 12 to 16. While there, Parachute will try to sign licensees in the key Halloween categories of costumes, candy and home accessory kits. Overfield-Delmar says, ‘Retailers would be drawn to the merchandise because of the awareness of the Goosebumps name with kids and families.’
Fox Family Worldwide Consumer Products is also exploring Halloween-themed opportunities for its hit family show The Addams Family.