September 27, 2022

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Why Home Depot’s 12-foot Halloween skeleton is already on sale

5 min read

Yes, the country just celebrated the Fourth of July a few weeks ago. But Home Depot
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has already dropped its Halloween home décor online — including its viral $299, 12-foot skeleton that’s been a seasonal sensation since 2020. 

The towering and terrifying figure, officially named “12-foot Giant Skeleton with LifeEyes LCD Eyes,” stands 12 feet tall and weighs about 60 pounds. It has animated LCD eyes that “create a creepy effect,” per the product description.

And folks apparently can’t get enough of it. The skeleton, which has been nicknamed “Skelly,” became a social media sensation during the first year of the pandemic, and has sold out well before Oct. 31 during the past two Halloween seasons. Home Depot’s chief operating officer noted on a 2020 Q3 earnings call that “customers responded to our larger assortment of animatronics, inflatables and yard décor, as evidenced by our 12-foot skeleton that sold out before October.”

Lance Allen, Home Depot’s senior decorative holiday merchant, told MarketWatch that “we knew we designed one of the greatest Halloween items of all time” when Skelly debuted in July 2020. But they had no idea that they were dropping their product at the perfect time to go viral.

“It brought a huge smile to everyone’s face, whether it was in their yard, their neighbors’ or they were seeing it in a meme,” he said. “When this all started with Skelly, it was a way for everybody to just say, ‘take that COVID, one way or another we are going to celebrate Halloween, this year’ … and then every other holiday.”

So Home Depot has already brought its bestselling skeleton out of the closet for Halloween 2022, making Skelly available for online ordering as of July 15. The drop had “Home Depot” and “Halloween” topping Google search trends on the morning of the 15th. And queries for “Home Depot Halloween skeleton” and “are the 12 foot skeletons sold out?” were also trending on that Friday. 

Analysts note that Halloween shopping has been creeping earlier on the calendar for the past few years — similar to how Starbucks’
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signature pumpkin spice latte and other fall flavors have been returning to menus as early as August in recent years, well ahead of the autumnal equinox. 

It’s still a little early for the National Retail Federation to share its 2022 Halloween predictions, but it noted last year that customers were ready for the spooky celebration “earlier than ever.” 


National Retail Federation

Almost half (45%) of surveyed shoppers told the NRF they expected to start their Halloween shopping in September or earlier last year, which was up from 36% five years before. A few shoppers have already reported that some HomeGoods and Party City stores have put their Halloween stock on shelves already — in mid-July. 

Allen at The Home Depot said the retailer launches its Halloween collections online in July every year, before stocking them in-stores every August. “We’ve realized that our loyal customers want to stay prepared for the holiday season, and start putting decorations up well in advance, sometimes as early as the beginning of September,” he said.

The NRF’s data also shows that by early September, more than two-thirds of adults planning to dress up for Halloween have generally already decided on their costume.

Marshal Cohen, the chief retail industry adviser for the NPD Group, told MarketWatch that one reason for the Halloween creep is that holiday shopping for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa has been moving earlier and earlier, advancing from the traditional Thanksgiving weekend Black Friday sales to mid-October. 

“Retailers have to take the [shelf] space from Halloween and give it to holiday, so retailers say, let’s push Halloween earlier,” he explained.

But it’s not just Christmas — and now Halloween — in July. “All of the holidays have started moving forward,” he said. Many businesses selling directly to consumers are pushing their goods year-round, for example. Or online sellers like Amazon are also offering deals and moving inventory throughout the year, like the recent Prime Day event, without being tied to particular calendar dates. And bricks-and-mortar stores are forced to keep up. 

But $299 for a lawn skeleton? Well, Halloween is a social media-friendly event, the NPD Group’s Cohen noted, with people sharing photos and video of their costumes and decorations online. So that social component can also push fans of the holiday to get a head start, and to invest in bigger and better costumes and home décor. “Halloween has become such an event for young adult consumers and kids, that it’s almost like planning for a wedding; you do it well in advance,” he said. 

Total spending on Halloween decorations was expected to hit an all-time high of $3.3 billion last year, the NRF said, with 52% of those celebrating the holiday planning to trick out their home or yard with decorations — which is where Skelly comes in. 

And he’s got company.  

Home Depot, capitalizing on its humerus hit, also launched the $379, 12-foot “Inferno Pumpkin Skeleton” last year. And for Halloween 2022, the retailer is throwing a 12-foot “Animated Hovering Witch” ($299), a 9.6-foot “Immortal Werewolf” ($399) and an 8-foot “Animated Smoldering Reaper” ($249) into the monstrous mix. The fang’s all here!


MarketWatch photo illustration/Home Depot

Home Depot shared a little insight on Skelly’s development in a corporate release last year by interviewing Allen, the decorative holiday merchant behind Skelly and his bony brother, the “Inferno Pumpkin Skeleton.” 

Allen’s team began working on the original 12-foot skeleton in 2019. They wanted to craft a giant free-standing and fully poseable skeleton for customers. They were originally targeting 10 feet, but decided to “shoot for the stars” and make the figure 12 feet tall.

“We know from what we’ve seen in the community and how they continue to flex those creative muscles, that customers always want to step up their décor,” Allen told MarketWatch. “We thought to ourselves, ‘How can we do the same?’” 

Bigger has clicked better with customers, as Skelly’s popularity suggests. And competitors are getting in on the action, too, with Lowe’s
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rolling out its own 12-foot “Lighted Animatronic Mummy” for $348, which moves and makes “moaning sound effects.” The retailer recently sent out a sassy tweet from its official Twitter account that ribbed its rival: “When your 12-foot skeleton is a 10, but it isn’t a mummy. We’ve got you covered.” 

Walmart
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has a 12-foot “Scary Slim Man” figure on sale for $102.46 online, and both Walmart and Target
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have 12-foot inflatable ghosts and other blow-up spooks for Halloween. 

Allen also warned that, “People are buying and decorating earlier than ever before,” and he urged Halloween lovers not to sleep on snagging their decorations — as if these towering terrors weren’t already keeping you up at night. 

So why isn’t inflation, or the economic turmoil throughout the pandemic, scaring shoppers away from these larger-than-life Halloween figures? “There are certain things that we do to indulge, and one of the few indulgences seem to be these social events,” said Cohen. “We’ve certainly got some pent-up desire to have some of these social interactions again … and Halloween is the perfect excuse to literally let loose.” 

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