Analysis: Are Americans Preparing for a Big Halloween in 2021?

Pattern Data Science

October 11, 2021

October has arrived, and you know what that means: spooky season is officially upon us!

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic upended one of America’s favorite holidays. With cases on the rise, millions of Americans canceled their Halloween parties, limited trick-or-treating, and some chose to sit out the holiday entirely.

One year later, and there’s still some uncertainty surrounding the holiday. Vaccines are readily available, and things are far more open than this time last year, but rising case rates spurred by the Delta variant may have many feeling cautious again.

Naturally, we decided to dive deep into our data to find answers to questions like: How slow was 2020 for major items like Halloween costumes and candy? How is demand for those items trending in 2021? And has the pandemic made certain costumes more or less popular?

A strong early season for online demand for Halloween supplies in 2021

Let’s start with the broadest available view by examining monthly demand for all things that fall under the “Halloween” category on Amazon. This would include decorations, costumes, supplies, etc.

A year over year view shows that 2020 actually saw online demand for Halloween supplies outpace pre-pandemic levels in September and October. A likely reason for this is a general increase in online shopping last year, as many stores closed their doors and even more people choose to shop from the safety of their own home.

Interestingly, though, online demand in 2021 outpaced both 2019 and 2020 in July and August, and appears to be on track for a particularly strong September and October.

This also may be the result of the proliferation of online shopping, but it’s a strong indicator that we’re in store for a particularly busy Halloween shopping season.

Let’s take a closer look at some specific types of Halloween supplies, starting with costumes.

Online demand for costumes has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels

While the general Halloween category may have done quite well last year, the same is definitely not true for costumes.

Online demand for costumes was down substantially in 2020 compared to 2019. In September 2020, demand was down -37% compared to 2019, while October 2020 was down -30%. Considering the comparatively strong performance of Halloween as a category, it seems that many Americans opted to celebrate the holiday by staying home last year.

Demand for costumes in 2021, meanwhile, appears to have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels during the early months of the Halloween shopping season. It remains to be seen if this trend will continue through September, but the early indication is that there is pent-up demand for big Halloween celebrations this year.

“Sexy” healthcare worker Halloween costumes are more popular than ever

Whether you’re tossing on a labcoat and a stethoscope, going with the classic “sexy nurse” costume, or spicing it up with a “zombie surgeon” getup — the healthcare field has provided countless people with popular Halloween costumes.

Naturally, we were curious to know if the COVID-19 pandemic changed this at all. Are healthcare workers a more or less popular costume option in the face of the past year? Let’s take a look at the data.

2020 saw online demand for items like nurse and doctor costumes dip only slightly below 2019’s figures. Considering the much larger drop in demand for all costumes last year, it seems that people were actually more likely to dress up as someone in the healthcare field than your average costume.

So far this year has seen online demand for healthcare worker costumes return to pre-pandemic levels. This suggests that last year’s enthusiasm may have waned somewhat, but these classic costumes appear to be just as popular as they’ve always been.

But what about a spicier take on healthcare worker costumes? Are people more or less likely to go for the “sexy nurse” or “sexy doctor” costume now than they were before the pandemic?

Again, 2020 saw demand dip compared to 2019. No big surprise considering big Halloween parties were frequently canceled last October.

When we examine the trendline this year, though, we can see that the “sexy” healthcare worker may be an extremely popular option at Halloween parties across the country. Demand has outpaced 2019 and 2020 for every month since Spring, and is trending to be well above both years as the holiday approaches.

This is yet another strong early indicator that Halloween might rebound in a big way in 2021.

Pet costumes

Pet costumes have exploded in popularity over the last decade, and we wanted to see how the pandemic impacted demand for costumes for our furry friends.

People weren’t just holding off on dressing themselves up last year, but their pets, too. Online demand dropped significantly in 2020 compared to 2019, down -32% in September and 26% in October.

This year, meanwhile, demand has returned to practically mirror pre-pandemic levels. It seems that Americans are just as antsy to get their cats and dogs back to a normal Halloween this year as they are themselves.

Online demand for candy has been up all year long

Last, but not least, let’s take a look at the reason for the season: candy.

While Halloween is a huge driver for candy sales, it’s far from the only big candy holiday of the year. Online demand for candy surges during Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, and the Holidays.

2020 saw online demand for candy explode compared to 2019. Much of this was likely due to the growth of online shopping during the pandemic, but once again, we see a strong signal that Halloween 2021 is going to see massive online demand for candy.

Recap: costumes hit hardest in 2020, biggest rebound in 2021

Let’s close by quickly comparing each of the categories we analyzed in the previous sections. First, here’s how well (or poorly) each category fared during Halloween last year.

Candy and general Halloween items both saw demand actually increase in October 2020 compared to October 2019, as more Americans found themselves stuck at home for the Holiday.

All costume categories, meanwhile, saw demand drop. Both regular and “sexy” healthcare worker costumes saw demand drop somewhat less compared to both pet costumes and all other costumes, suggesting these were a popular costume choice for those who did choose to dress up last year.

In August 2021, the most recent full month of data we have, shows that pet costumes are on track for a particularly big rebound, with demand up 144% compared to August of last year. Demand for all costumes saw the next biggest bump, with demand up 72% compared to the early Halloween shopping season last year.

All categories were up compared to last year, though, including candy, which had already seen a significant bump in 2020 compared to a pre-pandemic year.

A lesson for brands

Our data suggests that 2021 could be a huge year for Halloween across the country. The pandemic had a major impact on the holiday last year, and it seems like Americans are eager to get out and celebrate in a big way this year.

Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy.

For example, we’re seeing evidence that a lot of people are looking to buy a new costume this year, and that the “sexy nurse” costume may be more popular than ever. And even halloween supplies that had a strong year last year are on track for an even bigger year this year.

Either way, we’ll be keeping a close eye on these trends and more in the coming weeks and months.

To stay up to date on consumer behavior and ecommerce news, info, and trend analyses, be sure to subscribe to Pattern Insights.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, schedule a demo today.

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