Every year we hear about Christmas creep: the December holiday season seems to start earlier and earlier in November. No other holiday has had this kind of expandable season. Until now.
The Halloween industry has been growing over the past several years, with Americans spending more than $8 billion dollars on the spooky holiday. Nearly one in four American plan to visit a haunted attraction this year. Demand has been steadily increasing, but the industry couldn’t seem to make the jump past October 31.
This year might be different. In what everyone expected to be a down year, we’re seeing some surprising trends that signal haunt fans are not ready to wrap up the season.
Is this the year Halloween actually creeps into November?
What do the numbers say?
While many people through haunted houses would shutter for the 2020 season, that hasn’t been the case. Some businesses did close temporarily, approximately 28% based on data from HauntPay clients. The ones that stayed open have adapted and found creative ways to incorporate social distancing into their facilities through new costumes, props, and practices such as virtual queueing, timed ticketing, and contactless payments.
At HauntPay, we’ve seen an 82% increase in new haunted attractions signing up to use our platform. This is partially due to higher demand for online ticket sales, in-person credit and debit card sales, and social distancing features such as virtual queueing.
Haunt fans are clambering to get inside their favorite attractions. At HauntPay, ticket sales are up 2.5x from 2019 (a 150% increase).
Individual haunts are seeing an increase in business, too, even with reduced capacities. On average, we’ve seen a 35% increase in online ticket sales per haunted attraction. Individual results vary, depending on their location, weather, and a variety of factors, but some are seeing online sales more than two times what they experienced in 2019.
While the haunt industry was once a cash-only, at-the-door industry, today’s customers are buying tickets online more than ever before. Online ticket sales have been steadily increasing over the past five years, with approximately 42% of customers purchased tickets online in 2015. That increased to 49% in 2016, then 57% in 2017, 62% in 2018, and 68% in 2019. This year, online sales made a giant leap to 88% of all ticket sales. Customers want more convenience and flexibility in their purchases, and want the ability to secure their spot before they leave the house.
Typically, we see online sales plateau halfway through October, around the 15th of the month. This year, however, sales have continued to be strong even into the last week of the month. Haunt fans haven’t had their fill yet.
Why is this happening?
The shutdowns earlier this year, and ongoing social distancing, have made us all hungry for human connections and live entertainment. We’re seeing an exponential increase in demand across the board for haunted attractions.
There’s a positive mood-boosting effect that happens when guests visit a haunted attraction. A rush of endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin give us that high-on-life feeling after we make it through a haunt. After months of feeling cooped up, stressed out, and anxiety-filled, the chance to scream and laugh and take on our fears in a safe environment can make us feel better. Plus, there’s a sense of escapism: a retreat from the very real fears many of us are facing right now.
Should you consider extending your haunt season?
Traditionally, most haunted attractions close shortly after November 1, when guest interest starts to wane. This year, however, is shaping up to be different. If you’re planning to close right after Halloween, you may be leaving money on the table.
Remember that there are no live music or pro sports this year, at least not on the scale fans are used to experiencing. We need something to fill that void. Holiday events are still a month away for the most part. Why not enjoy Halloween for another week or two?
Another outcome of the pandemic: more guests are buying tickets online in advance. If you do decide to open ticket sales for November, you won’t be left waiting until the night-of to know whether anyone will show up. With more guests purchasing tickets in advance, you can better plan your staffing and operating hours for the extended season.
How do I extend my haunt?
- Communicate with your staff. Your team should be part of your decision to stay open. Talk with them now so they have time to plan their work schedules, and make sure you have sufficient staff and volunteers to operate the additional nights you want to be open. Consider offering a special perk or bonus to anyone who’s willing to stay on an extra week. It doesn’t have to be expensive! Check out our blog post on 8 creative ways to motivate volunteers.
- Update your ticketing page. Add the new dates to your HauntPay dashboard, or reach out to our support team and we’ll do it for you!
- Communicate with your guests. Let the world know you plan to be open for business in November. That means updating your website and social media accounts, along with any advertising campaigns you might be running. Consider offering a deal to return guests who already visited your haunt earlier in the season (see “How can HauntPay help?” below for more details on this).
- Reach out to local media. A lot of people thought Halloween would be a bust this year, but it’s turned out to be bigger than anyone expected. Reach out to your local news networks and let them know you’re extending Halloween.
How long should I be open?
If you’re unsure what your customer demand will be, start with just one weekend in November. You can continue to play things by ear if you want.
If it’s important to you to lock in staff and volunteer schedules early, you could plan to extend things longer. We think haunt fans will be hungry for more scares through the second week of November.
How can HauntPay help?
Our support team would be happy to update your ticketing dates for you, and that’s just the start.
You can use your HauntPay account to send an email to all upcoming guests, and include a special offer or promo code for November purchases along with the reminder about their upcoming visit.
Looking to email past guests? Download all your customer information to a CSV file, which can then be uploaded to your email provider of choice. HauntPay also integrates with Zapier which connects our platform to more than 2,000 web apps, so you can automate guest communications and a ton of other tasks.