Happy September 1st everybody – While the majority of the world is focused on getting their kids back in school or taking advantage of the few warm weekends before fall officially gets here, there are thousands of people who are focused on Halloween. For the last 15 years I was one of those people and that was my routine. I worked tirelessly night and day to build my Halloween Empire, and every September the fruits of that labor usually began to pay off. Sales would ramp up, the website was load tested, new employees were joining the ranks every day (heck every hour), and most importantly, I already knew how the season would turn out. Yep, in those 15 years I built a very accurate forecast engine. Usually that engine would give me the confidence we were on track, the sales would materialize and everything would be okay. But, on a couple of occasions it would act as an alarm to wake me up to the fact that things were not okay; sales were not on track, traffic was not where it should be, and if left unchanged, the business would be at risk. At this point I would need to fix the machine.
While I don’t have access to any Halloween sales data, nor have I even spoken with any Halloween insiders, I can see some Halloween companies are in trouble. There are 8 key indicators I used to assess my competitors over the years, a competitive intelligence of sorts to peer into their business from afar. Yesterday, I decided to apply those same indicators to a familiar company to see if I could peer into their business. What I learned was scary. Sales are probably way off, products are not where they should be and customer satisfaction is low. The results suggested, if left unchanged, this might be the first year in history the company had a negative sales comp. I suppose I could be wrong. Those indicators could be off or perhaps the way people shop online has changed in the last year. Maybe I’m sounding a false alarm. Maybe I’m missing a key piece of the puzzle. I sure hope that’s the case. The good news, however, there is still plenty of time. Two months may not seem like a long time, but in the Halloween business, it’s an eternity. Think about it; when do you buy your Halloween costume? Probably not before September. So, if you, as a consumer, haven’t purchased your costume yet it means there is still time for your buying decisions to be influenced. Good luck to those who are struggling, and to those who aren’t. You haven’t won or lost the race just yet.