BOO! Why Supply Chains Prefer Snowmen at Halloween

You probably weren’t expecting a post at midday – we like to surprise!

The shops, both brick and virtual, go mad at this time of year with bulk offerings of spooky sweets for warding off those nasty tricksters ready to curse you on the doorstep. Even your £3.99 makeshift cackling witch from Poundworld (irony intended) hanging from the door knocker doesn’t have enough curses to protect you from flour and eggs.

And what about the poor old Mums and Dads that every year are being roped further into this US-sourced frenzy of buying costumes, fake blood, purple pipe-cleaner spiders and lit-up skeleton heads – let alone the hours of scooping out (expensive) pumpkins ready for 6-year old fingers to stab out scary faces with a spoon. Amazon has excelled itself with bulk-buy boxes of scary treats; spooky candy shops are popping up all over the internet and even John Lewis is getting in on the act with home delivery. The most frightening thing about Halloween is the cost!

The UK will spend in excess of £300 million on Halloween this year. Retail analysts have forecast UK sales for Halloween will have risen by 12.5 percent over past year, increasing the overall spend to £315 million. Just ten years ago we spent only £12 million! The numbers in the US are even scarier. This festival is now the third most significant event in the shopping calendar after Christmas and Easter, even bigger than Valentine’s Day.

And what of the stores hoping to loosen those purse strings? Supermarkets are cashing in on branded Halloween treats with manufacturers. And even though Asda has an estimated 50 percent market share of Halloween retail sales in the UK, Tesco still has the lead on pumpkin sales (this store is bomb-proof it would seem).

Prices of cocoa beans are rising steadily, in fact by 300 percent this year according to some sources. The beans are harder to come by -- more countries eating chocolate than ever before, and bad weather and unrest in the Ivory Coast (with the higher proportion of cocoa fields) are to blame. Chocolate makers say they can’t steer the tide of rising prices, including milk and sugar, and companies are predicting a massive 70 percent rise in prices for the Halloween period. The best advice – hang onto your purse strings.

So -- ode to the supply chain: if you don’t watch out for your ‘sell-by’ dates you’re in for an even nastier fright. Just like Christmas and Easter, Halloween has its own get-rid-of-by date – never mind the lifetime of the treat’s edibility. As soon as the clock strikes 12 on the eve of All Hallow’s night, your freaky fruits, spider cupcakes and monster mousses, are left for dead -- no-one wants your spooky treats any more.

So don’t oversupply – discounted treats for quick sales after the event will result in significant losses. And don’t undersupply – too little stock or too much in the wrong shops, will mean big loss of sales and an open door for the competition. How do you get it right – plan early. Planning is at the heart of any effective strategy for seasonal peaks. Inaccurate forecasts and sudden changes to orders can wreak havoc on the supplier. Look at forecasts as early as possible to leave enough time for changes in decisions, whether the amount of storage required or managing the increased number of orders. In fact, by now, you should be thinking chocolate snowmen, not severed fingers.

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