Sep 27, 2023 - Business

How Home Depot picks out its Halloween decor

A photo of a Halloween decoration floor display at Home Depot. That includes a skeleton Grim Reaper and a tall character from A Nightmare before Christmas.

Act fast to get your giraffe-sized Jack Skellington. Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios

Halloween is serious business for Lance Allen, Home Depot's go-to guy for ghosts, tombstones, inflatable cauldrons and animatronic witches.

Why it matters: Halloween shoppers are expected to spend $12.2 billion this year on Halloween, up from $10.6 billion last year, according to the National Retail Federation's 2023 season survey.

  • Nearly $4 billion of that spending will go toward life-sized LED-lit caskets, ridiculously tall skeletons and other Halloween decorations that Home Depot proudly displays.

Catch up quick: Home Depot's breakout success of the store's 12-foot-tall skeletons and Halloween's ability to keep customers walking through the door leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas have made the holiday an important sales event for the Atlanta-based company.

How it works: You might not know what costume you'll wear in 2024, but Allen, the Atlanta-based company's senior merchant of decorative holiday, more or less knows what Halloween items Home Depot will carry in stores and online.

  • The eight-member holiday decorations team dreams up the concepts and works with manufacturers starting 18 months out.
  • Members spend a significant amount of time visiting haunted houses, watching movies ranging from Disney to horror, keeping tabs on neighborhood trick-or-treaters' costumes, and taking walks through spooky spots.

What he's saying: "I hate to say how many cemeteries I've walked around the country everywhere I travel," Allen told Axios. "It's always, 'Hey, I gotta go walk through that cemetery, see what great tombstones they have and get some inspiration there.'"

Yes, but: People make 8% of Halloween purchases at home improvement stores, the NRF says.

  • That means big box store execs like Allen need to offer a range of items that can register and resonate with as many people as possible to compete with discount and Halloween-dedicated specialty stores.
  • "We want to make sure we have something for everybody that walks through our doors," Allen said. "So you might find something really scary, and then you might find some happier, Disney-type items for the typical home decorator that's going for the trick-or-treaters."

State of play: Despite the demand, 2023 is slated to be the last Halloween that the giant-sized $300 "Skelly" — which people are leaving up year-round — is available, Allen said earlier this summer.

Zoom in: Home Depot doesn't give specific sales numbers but Allen told Axios that interest in Halloween decor has skyrocketed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, people are decorating earlier and earlier, which means popular items are flying off the shelves before October arrives.

  • In 2022, the store increased its outdoor Halloween decorations supplies by 104% year over year to 245, according to retail data firm DataWeave cited by Retail Dive.
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