Canadian Halloween Loses Its Spark, Calls for More Innovation and Seasonal Balance in Retail [Interview]

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Has Halloween in Canada gone stale? The general manager of Field Agent Canada, Jeff Doucette, says yes. Doucette discusses what is missing from the shelves in Canada for Halloween, how retailers are decreasing excitement by overlapping seasons and how we can bring back excitement.

Jeff Doucette

Just like consumers saw the back to school shopping hit stores earlier, Halloween came out earlier this year as Doucette says some retailers were stocking their shelves with Halloween products in August. Although retailers were prepared earlier this year, Doucette is noticing a lack of innovation and for next year – Canada needs to up its game.

“Halloween has been out for a while, we start to see it creep into the stores in September, or even August. The back to school candy gets repositioned to Halloween candy, so we have been seeing the candy and all of that stuff out there for quite a while. But, we have not seen a lot of innovation this year in terms of new things for Halloween or anything unique and in fact – we are now already seeing Christmas,” says Doucette. 

Halloween Display in the US (Image: Jeff Doucette / Field Agent)

Doucette visited the United States weeks before Halloween and noticed a difference in excitement and innovation. Doucette says Halloween in the US was more prevalent, there were no Christmas products on the shelves and instead, had a huge Halloween selection compared to Canadian stores. Meanwhile in Canada, retailers have mixed Halloween with Christmas. 

“Retailers have brought Christmas in sooner and it kind of overlapped with Halloween. Sometimes you see some overlap, but when I was at Safeway there were more advent calendars than there were Halloween products. And it just seems a bit out of context.” 

“Seasonal Creep Up”

Holiday Decorations at Dollarama (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Doucette says seasons tend to get earlier and earlier and is reaching a tipping point in retail. As inventory becomes available and gets pushed through the supply chain – everybody wants to be first and it is just getting too early: “right now is on my mind.” 

“It is way too early for me to get my head around buying an advent calendar, it just seems a bit out of sorts. We know Halloween is an important holiday for retailers and everybody wants to be out there and be first. But it just seems like Christmas is now taking over and is starting to take over the stores. It seems disjointed.” 

Christmas Display at Indigo Bay/Bloor on September 25th, 2023 (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

One reason why Doucette thinks seasons, like Christmas, are being pushed up is because retailers do not want to be last and miss out; however, it is not in line with what consumers are expecting to see in stores. Doucette said the normal flow would be to have Halloween, Remembrance Day – and then you would see Christmas, “and it seems like everyone has just pushed everything up a lot earlier in the cycle.” A second reason would be for consumers who have a tight budget; however, Doucette says it is unlikely people who are currently on a tight budget will be buying an advent calendar in the middle of October. 

In a time where retailers are looking to connect with consumers, Doucette says by pushing up holidays like this will cause the reverse effect. Rushing through holidays can cause consumers to become confused, distracted or have a less enjoyable time shopping for the current holiday. 

“Retailers are forgetting most consumers do not want to be shopping ahead of holidays, or skipping holidays. When people are focussing on Halloween – their focus is on Halloween, not getting a tree.” 

Loss of Excitement

Holiday Preview at Bath & Body Works in CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

By joining holidays, Doucette says it can cause a loss of excitement and also be exhausting for consumers. 

“The Halloween excitement gets cut off by Christmas taking over. I understand if retailers don’t want inventory sitting around and waiting to get out the door, but it just seems like a lot of retailers have gone too early into the next holiday causing consumers to be less excited and more distracted.” 

As a change for Halloween for this year is already too late, Doucette’s advice to retailers for next year is to slow it down, manage one holiday at a time and allow consumers to enjoy shopping for each holiday. 

When comparing Canada and the US, Doucette said “it was quite interesting to compare and contrast the two” as in the US, the stores did not even have enough room for Christmas products yet as it was filled with Fall and Halloween products. 

“Maybe Canada is Stale”

In terms of product creativity, Doucette says retailers in Canada should try and do more. Ideas he had in mind, sparked by his trip to the US, included Halloween theme products, more Halloween themed dog products and treats, and an increase in innovation for Halloween decorations. 

“One thing I saw while in the US, which was kind of interesting, was Halloween themed Prime energy and hydration drinks. They had a whole display setup in their stores around Halloween for specific Halloween skews. So that was something I have not seen in the past, of having energy drinks be included in the Halloween experience.” 

This is just one example of how brands can be more innovative for Halloween, and also other holidays.This way, consumers would be less distracted and more excited.

Christmas on the Right and Halloween Clearance on the left at Winners in Toronto (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

As for decorations, Doucette says he is not seeing anything new or exciting. 

“To be honest, my feeling for this year is there is just not a huge amount of excitement. We have a huge data collection of seasonal displays and I just have not seen anything this year that really caught my eye in the Canadian space. I just see it as more of the same, I do not see anything exciting – not the most exciting answer, but there is a lot of truth to it.”

Bring It On For Next Year’s Spooky Season

As it is too late for this year for retailers to be creative, Docuette says there is hope for the future if retailers and communities change their ways.

Currently, Doucette says a lot of people just “copy and paste” what they did in previous years and make little tweaks, but to change the stale Halloween climate in Canada, people need to start seeing how other places are being creative for the season and try to stand out. 

“There is no real innovation anymore. Maybe we need to start looking to the US for some ideas or other cultures that celebrate Halloween, and try it. I think everybody seems to have the same stuff and is taking the same approach – it is just not attractive and does not create much excitement for anybody.”

Shelby Hautala
Shelby Hautala
Shelby Hautala is a Retail Insider journalist currently based out of Toronto. She has experience writing for local newspapers and also internationally for Helsinki Times while she lived in Finland. Shelby holds a Bachelor of Journalism Honours degree from the University of King’s College and a Social Work degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Amen Brother! For Years I have been yelling slow down…quit pushing and mixing the seasons!
    I am not excited about any of the shopping seasons from late summer on for ALL the reasons you stated. Matter of fact, do not go into retail stores much anymore to shop during this time; I get so annoyed that the season’s are mixed.

  2. There is a lot of truth here! I was at Home Depot last week and they had almost no Halloween and Christmas was completely set up! As I have no intentions of buying for Christmas this early, they lost my Halloween business!

  3. I completely agree with this article, though it’s posted a week before Halloween. Retailers DO need to slow down. Shopping Centres can do more too. Set up Halloween decor in the common areas of the mall, mid September to end of October, then Christmas Decor from after Remembrance Day to the first week of January. This is were each Regional Shopping Centre can be competetive and draw people into the mall to take Social Media posts and video. They don’t do much anymore. These pencil pushers in the corporate levels only see numbers and cut cut cut and not what the customer wants to see, buy, or what draws them into the mall, or a retailer knows exactly what a customer wants so they will shop in their store or eat at the restaurant… Almost everyone is doing the same thing

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