Shop if You Dare: Spooky Halloween Data and a Premonition of the Holiday Season

Today’s the day we’ve all been waiting for, ghouls and goblins alike. Children are trick-or-treating, parents are eating their candy and the country is celebrating peak fall weather and aesthetic. However, Halloween isn’t just the spookiest day of the year, it’s also a significant retail holiday that kicks off the upcoming holiday season.

For most, it’s easy to forget that Black Friday is less than four weeks away but here at Ketner Group Communications, retail’s always on our mind – which is why I’m dressed up as ‘J.C. Pennywise (It)’ to celebrate Halloween and the rapidly approaching holiday retail season.

Halloween Retail Projections

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, total spending for Halloween is expected to reach $9 billion, the second highest in the survey’s 14-year history and similar to last year’s record of $9.1 billion.

Seventy percent of Halloween celebrants plan to hand out candy, 50% will decorate their home or yard, 48% will wear costumes, 32% will throw or attend a party and 30% will take children trick-or-treating. Also, whether or not pets want it, pet costumes continue to gain popularity, with nearly 20% of celebrants planning to dress their pets in costumes this year up from last year’s 16%.

Where are people shopping? According to NRF, 45% of shoppers will visit discount stores and 35% will go to a specialty Halloween store or costume store. Additionally, 25% will visit department stores, 24% will buy online and 24% will scour grocery/supermarket stores.

Possessed Stores

Following the untimely demise of Toys ‘R’ Us this year (RIP), you may have recently seen their storefronts back in business. But don’t be fooled. These abandoned locations have simply been possessed by the likes of Spirit Halloween and Halloween City, pop-up stores that are only open for a few months each year leading up to the holiday. Also called the “hermit crabs” of retail, these Halloween stores quickly move into empty storefronts – making closed Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us locations perfect spaces for the Halloween season. This also points to the ever-growing, opportunistic pop-up trend that utilizes events and relevant audiences to reach customers in unique ways.

What’s Next?

What should we expect once we wake up on November 1st, thankful that we made it through the frights and dangers of All Hallow’s Eve? Almost immediately, we’ll begin hearing about Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, and the holiday shopping season will be in full swing. In fact, Target already announced its strategy for the holidays – it will offer free two-day shipping with no minimum purchase required starting on Nov. 1. Meanwhile, Nordstrom announced that from Dec. 3 through Christmas Eve, they will offer “early bird” pickup before stores open their doors in the morning – and even around the clock at 23 locations. We’ll undoubtedly see more retailers expand fulfillment options during the holidays in order to compete against each other and Amazon Prime’s reliable, simple delivery options.

Meanwhile, with Toys ‘R’ Us gone and Sears a member of the walking dead, the question of who will take over these retailers’ business and customers this holiday season reverberates. We can expect to see retailers clamoring to take advantage by more aggressively promoting deals on toys like we never saw when Toys ‘R’ Us was the dominant industry player, with Target and Walmart matching Amazon step for step.

We hope that you enjoy your Halloween festivities this week and are as excited as us for the holiday season to begin. 2018 retail forecasts for the holidays look very promising, but beware… there are always frights waiting around the corner.

Not Every Trick is a Treat: Branding in a Competitive Environment

im-a-mouse-duh-mean-girlsBeing the talk of the town on Halloween requires going beyond the cliché and finding an outside-the-box costume that people will also be able to understand and enjoy. Whether scrambling last minute and slapping a mask or a witch hat on or becoming a Goodwill regular hunting for the perfect accessory, Halloween revelers take advantage of Halloween to borrow a persona that extends far beyond their everyday personality. Done right, a Halloween costume can earn you some serious kudos.

This isn’t dissimilar to retail marketers developing campaigns this holiday season. As the nights get longer and mornings get colder, they are looking for ways to cozy up to shoppers in unique ways. The ‘go viral’ mentality has led to a lot of good and bad ideas, but brands and retailers know they can’t just discount themselves into oblivion anymore. They need to find innovative marketing campaigns and brand messaging that puts a new spin on traditional tactics. Like knowing what it takes to win the office Halloween costume contest, there are a few foundational elements Halloween shares with holiday marketing.


In the age of data-driven marketing, it can be hard to remember that people can’t give feedback – positive or negative – on something they haven’t seen yet. Numbers can tell you anything you want to know about your customers, and on a macro-level, you can determine what sort of marketing those people respond to best. That is undoubtedly important when creating your brand, full stop. But when looking to stand out in an extra busy time, those numbers can be so restricting that you never find the best answer.

Riddle me this: which costume do you prefer – the store-bought ‘princess’ costume or the one that took someone a week to make after visiting four stores, busting out the sewing machine and coming up with an original costume you hadn’t seen before? Ask Google what’s more popular and you’ll see that lots of people were princesses, so you know that’s a safe way to go, but I promise you’d be more excited to have trick-or-treaters come to your door as the latter.

Numbers and data and research can lie, even if it’s by accident. They’ll tell you what isn’t the wrong move, but they can’t prove what is the right move – not in this instance and not when trying to develop a viral or even just plain compelling marketing campaign.


That’s me. I’m ‘dead Barb’ from Stranger Things. People liked my sign.

Creativity is great, but if people are left scratching their heads and whispering to their friends that they have no idea what’s going on, it’s useless. Some of my favorite costumes are when people dress up as characters from kids’ movies I haven’t thought about in years. These costumes establish a sense of belonging and an inside-joke mentality to the holiday. These costumes aren’t cliché, but they rely on a shared connection that most people have, and takes advantage of that feeling to create a positive reaction. Many of the movies I haven’t seen or barely remember are well-established, so I don’t have to know exactly what the character did in the movie or what their most quotable lines are in order to appreciate it.

Retailers can leverage their knowledge of their customers here to find unique connections they have with each other. No matter what you sell, your customers have other interests. Find the connections that fly under the radar and exploit them without alienating those who aren’t in on the joke, and you have a pretty good recipe for success. 


One thing that is sure to get people to like your costume even when they don’t know you is to have a funny costume. Costumes that take a second to figure out because they’re based on wordplay or costumes that shake the stuffiness and self-consciousness of daily life are always a big hit. They’re creative; people understand that it’s a joke and not who you really are, and they can easily join in the fun with you. The barriers to friendship, conversation or just a moment of laughter with each other when you get the joke is what it’s all about. Don’t take yourself too seriously, whether in costume or in business at the holidays, and you’ll be on the track to a successful holiday.

Halloween marks the holiday season’s earnest launch. The competition for best costume, just like the competition for holiday consumers, is tough to win. But, if retail marketers think about their holiday strategies the same way they think about putting together a good costume, they’ll be swapping out the fun size treats for king size in no time.

The Scariest Thing You’ll See This Halloween… AP Style Mistakes!

Sure. Zombies and ghosts can give you chills, but nothing makes you squirm like a misplaced comma or the double space between sentences. We know deadlines and full schedules dictate most of our days, but making time to review the latest AP Stylebook might be just what you need to polish up your nearly-flawless writing skills!

The team at Ketner Group decided to highlight which mistakes we make the most and which common errors make our hair stand on end.

KG’s Most Common Mistakes

  • Using “their” Instead of “its.” – Jeff’s our biggest offender on this one!
  • The Double Space Two-Step – As Catherine would say! It’s a tough change, but we’re all in this together.
  • Too Many Commas – Caitlin has become a little comma happy recently – this article in PR Daily is a great read for tips on comma usage!
  • Misspelled Words – Brittany’s a Grammar Hammer, but “occasion” and “fulfillment” give her some spelling trouble every now and then.

That AP Rule We Just Can’t Ever Remember…

  • Texas vs. TX – This one still gives Catherine and Jeff a rough time! “Always Texas, not TX!” Catherine suggests double checking your AP style book to confirm the states for new clients.
  • Now Where to Put This Footnote… – Inside or outside the period? Inside or outside the quotation? Brittany struggles with these questions daily. The rule: if footnoting an entire sentence, place the footnote after the period. If footnoting a single word or phrase, place the footnote directly after it and before a period.
  • When Do I Hyphenate? – Compound modifiers can be confusing and once you’ve fallen into the sticky trap it can be impossible to get out. Caitlin often uses two or more words to express a single concept, but not without deliberation!

The AP Rule That Haunts Us

  • Its vs. It’s – This is one of Jeff’s ultimate pet peeves. His helpful tip is to say “it is” out loud every time you write “it’s.”
  • Capitalizing Everything! – Catherine cringes when she sees titles capitalized in press release quotes. “Not Everything Is That Important, People!”
  • The Double Space Two-Step, Again – We all grew up doing it, but times have changed and it is no longer correct according to AP style. Caitlin’s been cracking down on this one!
  • Homonym Mix Ups – Typing all day for a living can warrant the occasional mistake, but the misuse of “to” and “too” drives Brittany batty! She’s watching you, People of Facebook. “Conversely, catching a ‘who versus whom’ or ‘less versus fewer’ mistake makes me feel like an editing rockstar,” she says. You most certainly hold Rockstar Editor status at KG, Brittany!

Moral of the horror story: refresh your AP style memory! Set aside a time for the whole office to go over common mistakes and have team members mention other errors to be aware of that you might miss in your review. Taking an hour today can save you more than a few hours of edits in the future!

Halloween: In Need of Good PR?

madeleine-halloweenIs it just me, or is the Halloween industry in need of a branding facelift?  When I was a kid, it never occurred to me that this “holiday of sorts” was the cause for so much controversy between differing religious groups, let alone the fact that Halloween’s roots come from ancient pagans who believed that October 31 was the day that the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops. (Thus ancient Celtics would wear masks to scare away any spirits.) I come from a Christian family, but my parents were not the ultra-conservative type, and so my brother and I always dressed up for Halloween, participated in Halloween parties at school and always went trick or treating in our safe suburban neighborhood in Lubbock, Texas.

Nowadays, however, Halloween as a “holiday” has a much different look and the industry has literally exploded right before our eyes.  In doing research for this blog, I found a stat from BIGResearch that in 2005 (the year my daughter was born) consumers spent almost $3.30 billion.  For 2012, figures are estimated to top $8 billion– spending of course on costumes, decorations, and candy. So, if you look at the Halloween from a figures standpoint, the industry has done, well, pretty dang amazing! Continue reading