When it comes to fall, Americans love to celebrate the season. Picking apples, carving pumpkins and admiring the foliage are among favorite fall pastimes — but if there’s one tradition to rule them all, it’s Halloween. Last year, the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicted a record-breaking $9 billion in Halloween spending throughout the U.S., with an average household spending more than $86 on items like costumes, candy, decorations and greeting cards. For small businesses, the season of spooky could also bring in a season of shoppers.

The Halloween season presents an opportunity for small businesses, but also a challenge. According to NRF’s 2018 survey, 35 percent of shoppers planned to search online for their inspiration and purchases, whereas only 30 percent planned to shop in a retail store. The gap isn’t much, but it reflects a persistent trend that may frustrate many small brick-and-mortar establishments.

Small businesses must stand out to overcome the online retail divide. Whether in-store, around the community or on their social media profiles, small businesses should plan to fully embrace the spooky holiday theme this time of year.

Set the Scene

In addition to costumes, candy and more, shoppers reported to NRF that they were looking for Halloween inspiration. So, give them what an online shopping experience cannot. Turn your brick-and-mortar location into a Pinterest-worthy idea board for customers by setting up themed displays. Set the scene with jack-o-lanterns, foliage, candy and even a fog machine. In this way, you’ll help inspire consumers to build their own Halloween celebrations.

Go Spooky on Social Media

Consumers who choose to search online for Halloween items will also want to find both inspiration and the right products. Social media serves both purposes. Make sure your business’ social media profiles reflect the spooky season by sharing themed content and products ahead of the big day itself. You can snap a photo of your spooky storefront or share a video clip of your favorite Halloween movie. Create a two-way conversation with your audience by asking what they plan to dress up as, how they plan to celebrate or what’s on their Halloween shopping list. Finally, make sure you broaden the potential reach of your posts by using the right Halloween hashtags: #halloween, #happyhalloween and #trickortreat are among the best, according to Adweek.

Join a Local Event

Community calendars fill with festivity during the month of October. Celebrate with your local Main Street organization or chamber of commerce by participating in their planned events. By joining the ghost tour, Halloween market or other seasonal event on the calendar, you’ll create an additional opportunity to engage with consumers during the Halloween season.

Host Your Own Event

Why not bring the celebration into your own store? Organize a pumpkin-carving contest or a canned food drive to give your customers and passers-by something to enjoy throughout the month. Don’t forget about the kids — parents always take safety seriously this time of year and creating a kid-friendly event could go a long way.

These tips and tricks make sense for a wide variety of small businesses — even those that don’t sell costumes and candy. During the Halloween season, Americans will also look to their local grocers and farmers for the right ingredients for their Halloween treats or to their local hardware store for high-quality building supplies for their haunted houses. More than spookiness, the Halloween season calls for creativity — so don’t miss an opportunity to celebrate the consumer-friendly season.

Bill Brunelle is co-founder of Independent We Stand, a cause-marketing campaign sponsored by STIHL, Do it Best Corp., PPG Paints and Nationwide Marketing Group, which is dedicated to educating communities about the importance and strong economic benefits of supporting locally owned businesses. Independent We Stand inspires small business owners across the country to celebrate their locally owned status and help consumers understand the importance of supporting them. For more information, visit www.independentwestand.org. @IndWeStand

Halloween decor stock photo by Midori9813/Shutterstock