Every October, the quiet village of Salem, Massachusetts becomes Halloween Headquarters for thousands of locals and visitors. The streets are packed with elaborately costumed revelers and businesses take in up to 30 percent of their annual income.
But just like everything else, Halloween 2020 will likely be a different beast.
New Coronavirus cases have plateaued here in Massachusetts, but with the expected influx of tourists from all over the world, can Salem risk holding their annual Haunted Happenings? And can they risk not holding them?
“The sales that the businesses generate during October are what carry them through the quiet winter months,” Kate Fox, director of Destination Salem, the city’s marketing organization, told the New York Times.
According to the publication, Disney and Knott’s Berry Farm have already canceled their massive annual Halloween festivities, and smaller parks are expected to follow suit.
“It’s just really a catastrophic year from the business perspective,” Fox said, noting that with five weekends in October this year, two full moons, and the end of daylight saving time falling during Halloween night, 2020 was “on track to be our biggest year for tourism ever.”
As of early August, Salem expected to still be in Phase 3 of its reopening, and adjusted its Halloween plan accordingly. However, days later, Governor Baker announced tighter restrictions due to a rise in new COVID-19 infections.
Just how devastating would it be if Salem were to lose Halloween 2020? Well, trick-or-treating is still on the table, and across the country, Halloween merchandise is big business. Between costumes, decorations and candy, Americans spent more than $8 billion on Halloween last year.
“Nationally, the retail industry has counted on Halloween as one of its important sales drivers,” said David Gulley, an economics professor at Bentley University. “While not at the level of end-of-year holiday or back-to-school shopping, Halloween matters. With far fewer parties and trick-or-treating looking very unlikely, this will be yet another blow to the already beleaguered retail sector.”
Christopher Gindlesperger, senior vice president for public affairs of the National Confectioners Association, said the organization conducted two polls earlier this summer to gauge consumers' attitudes towards celebrating Halloween during a pandemic.
They found that 63 percent of adults believed that people would “find creative, fun and safe ways to celebrate the Halloween season this year,” and that an additional 25 percent were optimistic “but aren’t sure what to expect just yet.”
Additionally, 74 percent of millennial mothers and other young parents said that Halloween was more important than ever this year.
Maybe it’s Halloween at a distance, or at home, “but that doesn’t mean Halloween is not happening,” Mr. Gindlesperger said.
For now, Haunted Happenings are expected to go on as planned - with a few adjustments, of course. The website reads:
"While some things may be different this October, we invite you to experience a unique one of a kind Halloween experience with museums and attractions, ghost tours, harbor cruises, local shopping, dining, and more."