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It's no secret that Halloween is a big deal in retail. According to the National Retail Federation, this year’s projected spending is predicted to be scary good: at $8.8 billion, it’s the third-highest in the study's 14-year history. That equates to roughly $86.27 for each person shopping for candy (for an estimated total of $2.6 billion), decorations ($2.7 billion), and costumes ($3.2 billion).
And while most grocery stores spend their energy building displays that will cash in on incremental candy sales, IGA's Local Equals Fresh brand position opens the door to another important fall opportunity—stimulating demand around the fall harvest. "There was a time when consumers intuitively knew when fruits and vegetables were harvested for sale, but that all changed as imported fruits and vegetables created an infinite selling season," IGA CEO John Ross said. "Today many younger consumers are unaware that so many staples of our diet are harvested in the fall. Celebrating the local harvest is great way for IGA's local grocers to get shoppers excited about the season and the fresh and tasty products local farmers produce."
At Reese & Ray’s IGA in Sidney, Montana, the Halloween displays went up in August, but their involvement with the holiday goes beyond the sales. Halloween falls during an important time for this agricultural community in Eastern Montana—the sugar beet harvest—which means double the festivities.
This past weekend was a busy one for the store, as it participated in two big community events: the annual Harvest Festival (which runs October 23 through November 2) and a Halloween-themed Trail of Treats.
For its part in Harvest Festival, the store hosts a Make it with Sugar baking contest, held this year on Friday, October 25. According to Store Manager Kelly Burke, this popular event is sponsored by Sidney Sugars and participants enter a wide range of sweets, including cakes, cookies, candies, pies, and breads. Employees from the store took part in the judging and the grand prize winner received a $100 IGA gift card. Everyone who enters brings home a bag of sugar, so no one goes home empty handed.
For the past 10 years, Reese & Ray’s has also been the kick off spot for the Trail of Treats, which took place this past Saturday, October 26. This community-wide event is organized by the Sidney High School Key Club, with promotional help from the Sidney Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture.
“All the businesses participate and give out candy. It’s a way to get the kids out in a safe environment,” said Burke. “We’re a small community and this event gives them something else to do, and another way to celebrate.”
For its part, Reese & Ray’s gives out doughnut holes and apple juice, in addition to candy. Event maps showing the other participating businesses are available, so families can plan their route. The employees have fun dressing up and the store stays busy during and beyond the event, which starts at 10:00 a.m. at IGA and culminates with a costume contest at a business across town.
“We are very busy, it gets quite hectic in the check stands,” Burke said. “It’s amazing how many families come out.”
Now that Halloween and Harvest Festival are winding down, the next big community celebration for Sidney is an annual holiday parade in late November, which ends at Reese & Ray’s and features a visit from Santa, who hands out candy. The store also participates in a tree auction, decorating and donating a Christmas tree, with the proceeds from the sale going to the local Boys and Girls Club.