Halloween is re-establishing its place on the retail sales calendar this year, and not just as a necessary hurdle to clear before the race to the Christmas holiday shopping finish line begins in full sprint. Consumers are embracing the spirit of Halloween in record numbers in 2012, according to the often-cited Halloween Spending survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and consequently Halloween has gained new retail authority.
In response to this year's Halloween fever, retailers - particularly retail restaurant chains - are getting into the spirit of the holiday with one-day-only treats, deals and specials that are FREE, which is one price point that American consumers will perform a lot of tricks to receive.
Basically, you can eat your way through Wednesday, October 31st for practically nothing, if you're willing to be seen in public wearing something ridiculous enough to pass for a "costume." You'll have to persuade your children to do the same, but that shouldn't be difficult since 71% of children said wearing costumes are their favorite part of Halloween in a survey conducted for the American Dental Association (ADA).
Here's a roundup of the free Halloween treats being offered by some of the largest U.S. retail chains on (or around) Halloween Day (October 31st, in case you forgot).
Completely Free Halloween Treats from Retail Stores and Restaurants:
Bass Pro Shops will have free photos, coloring sheets, and trick-or-treating inside its stores from 5:00 to 8:00 PM on Halloween.
Dickey's Barbecue Pit will feed kids for free on Halloween, as long as they wear their Halloween finest into the restaurant.
Krispy Kreme (KKD) will give a free Halloween or Pumpkin Spice Doughnut to any adult or child who shows up at their store all day on Halloween. There's no word on whether pets in costume will be rewarded with a Krispy Kreme treat, but if you're one of the 15% of Americans that forked over some of the $370 million the NRF predicts will be spent on pet costumes this year, you might as well try to get something back from that valuable investment.
Sonic (SONC) has a fun Halloween pinball game on its website, which will undoubtedly disappear shortly after the the clock strikes midnight on October 31st.
Treats With Charitable Benefits:
Wendy's (WEN) sells Frosty coupon books each year during the Halloween season for $1. You get ten coupons for free Jr. Frosties in the book which you can hand out to trick- or-treaters or keep to give treats to yourself and your family at any time. Proceeds from the sale of the coupon books go to the Dave Thomas Foundation which supports children in foster care and adoptions.
Chipotle (CMG) restaurants have a special treat for people who visit their stores in costume on Halloween day after 4:00 p.m - $2.00 "Boorito," bowls, salads or tacos. If you're one of Chipotle's fanatic fans, you know that getting anything for two bucks is a good trick. But the real treat in this special deal is that all of the Halloween Boorito booty that Chipotle collects will be donated to their Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, which is the non-profit part of the Chipotle chain focused on raising awareness about healthy food issues and creating sustainable food supply chains.
Free With Purchase Halloween Special Treats:
Bob Evans (BOBE) is giving one of your costumed kids a free meal with each adult entree purchased and eaten in the restaurant on October 31st. Click here for the coupon that you'll need to get this Halloween freebie.
Chili's (EAT) will treat your child (12 years old or younger) to a free meal with the purchase of an adult entree. You'll also need to hand over the official coupon to get this Halloween deal, but the cost of a little printing ink is a small price to pay for a Chili's freebie, don't you think?
Houlihans will give one child a free meal with the purchase of an adult entree on Halloween. This is a good deal if you don't dig the whole Halloween scene because costumes are encouraged, but not required to get the Houlihans freebie. But you do need to bring the official e-mail invitation, and the offer is only good at New York and New Jersey locations where Hurricane Sandy hasn't played any nasty tricks.
Outback Steakhouse will give you a free Kids Meal with the purchase of an adult entree on Halloween Day. As an extra treat to the adults who are doing all the Halloween hauling, Outback is giving out vouchers for free steak dinners to be used on a future visit. And rumor has it that there's also another free treat for Halloween diners that will come from the Outback beverage book.
Steak Escape is giving away a free kids meal with the purchase of a small sandwich value meal. You'll also need the freebie coupon for this Halloween treat, and you can only use one coupon per person per visit, so use the trick of splitting up your kids between adults and making separate purchases to get this treat.
Subway and Disney (DIS) are giving away reusable Frankenweenie Halloween treat bags and glow sticks with the purchase of a Fresh Fit for Kids Meal, while supplies last.
Not Free, But Still Fun Halloween Specials and Deals:
Baskin Robbins (DNKN) will help you relive those golden memories of Halloween candy overload with its special October ice cream treats. The October Flavor of the Month is cleverly named Trick OREO Treat, and is comprised of vanilla ice cream, orange creme-filled Oreos, Baby Ruth and Butterfinger pieces. I don't think the Baskin Robbins flavormeisters could have packed more childhood Halloween flavors into one ice cream if they had tried. It's kins of like sticking your head into your trick-or-treat bag and not coming out until there's nothing left but wrappers.
Marble Slap Creamery is also joining the Halloween sugar fest this year with it's Gummy Graveyard Sundaes, which you can buy for $1 less with a special Halloween coupon.
Papa Murphy's is selling pepperoni pumpkin pizzas for $8 on Halloween. There's not actually pumpkin on the pizzas (although that might be tasty), but the pizzas are shaped like pumpkins and the pepperonis make a fun jack-o-lantern face. The best thing about this Papa Murphy's deal is that it's a heat-and-eat treat that you can buy on October 31st and enjoy at any time.
Sonic is selling "frankenweenie" corndogs for just 50 cents on Halloween Day. There doesn't seem to be a limit to the number that you can buy, so if corn dogs are your thing, you might want to stock up on some cheap eats at Sonic on October 31st.
Halloween Contests and Prizes:
After you've wolfed down your $2 Boorito at Chipotle, make sure to take a photo of your fine costumed self inside or in front of the Chipotle restaurant and enter it into the Chipotle Costume Contest. The grand prize winner will get $2,500 cash, which is not too scary.
PetSmart (PETM) is in the final days of voting for its Monster Cute Photo Contest. The winner will be determined by popular vote, and voting is open to the general public. Looking at the the photos of Sunny Bunny stuffed into a flower pot and Zorro the Pinata Pooch, it becomes clear that there may be a very fine line between Halloween spirit and animal cruelty.
Free Halloween Fun Facts:
- 600 million tons of candy will be purchased this Halloween at a cost of $1.9 bilion, according to Bundle.com.
- A significant portion of the 600 million tons of candy that changes hands this year will be consumed by adults, since 90% of parents admit that they steal from their kids' trick-or-treat bags, according to the National Confectioner's Association.
- The U.S. will have 750,000 more politicians on October 31st, since that's the number of people the NRF predicts will be donning some type of political costume this Halloween.
- Seasonal retailer Spirit Halloween claims to have correctly predicted the winner of every presidential election since 1996 based on the number of Halloween masks sold for each candidate. If this holds true for the 2012 election, then Barack Obama will be re-elected on November 6th because the Obama mask is outselling the Romney mask by a decisive margin. You can also cast your vote for the Obama mask or Romney mast at SpiritHalloween.com. Currently the Obama mask is beating the Romney mask two to one, and Batman is the most popular write-in candidate for president.
- 75% of American children like Halloween more than Christmas, according to the ADA sponsored survey. In response to that, 100% of the U.S. retail industry hopes that 75% of American children lie.
- According to NRF predictions, 41% of Americans began their Christmas holiday shopping before Halloween, which is the yummiest treat in the U.S. retail industry's bag.