Normally for Pattie’s Party Palace in Nanaimo, Halloween is the busiest time of the year.
But with the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, Halloween sales are down more than 50 per cent this year, according to owner Pattie Walker.
“It’s been devastating,” she said.
Although B.C.’s top doctor has said Halloween isn’t cancelled this year, Walker says many people simply haven’t made plans.
“I think it is more that people are unsure what is happening for Halloween,” Walker said, later adding. “I really, really hope for the kids’ sake that people take them out for trick-or-treating, because I think the kids really really need that. Every parent has to make that judgement themselves as to what their comfort level is.”
Halloween has become big business over the years.
Canadians spent an average of $77 on attending a Halloween party, $52 on costumes, $43 on decorations, and $42 on candy, according to Statista.
Last year alone, more than four million children between five and 14 went trick-or-treating nationwide and there was more than $600 million in candy sales at large retailers in October 2016, says Stats Canada.
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Find more statistics at Statista
With big Halloween parties at nightclubs and bars being cancelled and many opting to celebrate the evening indoors – or not at all – many businesses that rely on high sales during this time of the year are likely going to feel the financial pinch in 2020.
“Halloween is our Christmas, but if people don’t get the Christmas sales that they need, it is a domino effect,” said Walker. “It’s just sad. I’ve been doing this for 22 years.”
Pattie’s Party Palace is not the only business experiencing a steep decline in sales due to lack of Halloween, it seems.
The Party Crashers in Victoria has gone into liquidation and is closed and Victoria Costumes is going out of business, however, the decision was made before COVID-19 hit.
Other stores in B.C. that CHEK reached out to either did not respond or said sales were down, but didn’t provide specifics.
“I’ve already talked to people in Vancouver and everybody is sitting around 50 to 55 per cent down in their sales,” said Walker.
One of those Vancouver businesses is Merchant of Dream, a family-run costume store that operates a pop-up Halloween shop in the city, where sales are down between 60 to 80 per cent compared to last year.
“It’s been hard,” said Simo Ben, owner of Merchant of Dream.
AMAZON ‘REALLY HURTING’ LOCAL BUSINESSES
Many local retailers were already struggling due to competition from online giant Amazon prior to the pandemic arriving, that pain has been amplified amid COVID-19 as more and more consumers shift to online shopping.
Ben said although they are just a pop-up store, competition from online retailers like Amazon has really hurt business. He says their prices are higher because the quality of the product is better and because they’re a physical store, they have to cover their costs.
“People come to the store and they start to tell us that online it is cheaper and stuff like that, but people don’t understand that we pay people here to work with us, we pay rent, we debt, we pay so much stuff,” Ben said, adding that theft from his store hasn’t helped either.
Those feelings were echoed by Walker, who says Amazon – where prices can often be cheaper and items can be shipped for free in a few days – has really hurt business in the industry.
“The part that is really hurting everybody is Amazon 100 per cent, that is the other problem,” she said. “I don’t think people really realize that. I honestly don’t think the general public will fully understand that until the new year.”
Both Walker and Ben are hopeful that sales will pick up in the next few days as the popular holiday approaches, but aren’t expecting it.
“We are absolutely hoping that. I call every day an adventure because we don’t know what is happening. None of us have that crystal ball and as a small business, leading up to Halloween has been devastating,” said Walker.