Business & Leadership Behaviors Project Management Thoughts

The Supply Chain of Halloween – Changes in Perspectives

Anne Hale, our Director of Client Services, hijacked this week’s post while Wes wasn’t looking….

I recently returned from a high school reunion (no, I won’t tell you which one) where a lot of time was spent talking about activities and traditions we had growing up. Given the time of year, Halloween naturally came up. Unsurprisingly, there were debates here and there regarding best approach, costumes, candy hauls, etc.

Being the supply chain geek that I’ve become, I couldn’t help but see some pretty amusing parallels to my current work in defining asset management and supply chain solutions. Once you’re done rolling your eyes at me – tell me you didn’t think about some of these things when you were a kid too:

Best Conveyance: You want to carry something that will allow you the maximum haul of candy. A pillow case might be good, but sometimes the big kids would walk behind the little kids with pillow cases, cut the case when they weren’t paying attention and then just pick up the trail of candy. The plastic jack-o-lanterns prevented that – but were limited on space.

Process Flow: What is the best way to work the neighborhood to get the maximum amount of candy? And, if you were relegated to the plastic jack-o-lanterns like my brother and me, you need to factor in drop off stops at home to free up space for more treats. Strategy is crucial.

Quality Inventory: Where do you go for the best goods? The house behind ours was known to hand out raisins, so we skipped them. Ditto for the dentist across the street (they handed out toothbrushes). Down the block were a couple of houses known for handing out the full-size candy bars – we were always sure to hit them early.

Of course, we could plot and plan all we wanted – inevitably my Dad reduced our collections in the name of “quality control”. Yes, he actually called it that.

Now that I’m an adult, I’m working a different aspect of the supply chain.

Production Planning: On a weekend night, I usually have around 150-200 kids come by. Halloweens that land on weeknights can vary a lot depending on weather, how many weekend activities there were, etc. – so the volume is usually closer to 100. You don’t want to be that house that runs out (can you say TP’d trees?). But having too much leftover candy has consequences too.

Quality Supply: Planning what to hand out takes consideration too. You don’t want to be avoided like the Dentist House or the Raisin House. You also don’t want to have the really good stuff leftover either (officially launching holiday weight gain). And now there’s a new factor to consider – offering allergy-free treats (the Teal Pumpkin Project has all kinds of info). Having the right supply in the right quantities has become an art form.

Tracking the Flow: Once you have your supply set, it would also be really nice to know when the kids are going to start coming. “After dinner” can mean a pretty early start – especially during mid-week like this year. Closing shop is a little easier to determine (if you’re old enough to be out after 8pm, you’re probably too old to trick or treat….).

Quality Control: In St. Louis, it’s a tradition that the Trick-or-Treaters are supposed to tell you a joke before they get a treat. I’ll admit – I have been known to reward the kids with the really good jokes with extra treats. On the other end, you don’t want to reward the kids who don’t bother to put on costumes. A friend suggested giving those kids chocolate covered brussel sprouts as their “treat”. However, I think that would end in a TP/Egg combo across the house though….

I have to admit, leveraging some of our technologies, like RFID could be really helpful. Wouldn’t it be great if you could track the flow of the kids through the neighborhood? Maybe see when they’re coming, see which ones have the allergies so you offer them treats from a separate bowl?

Granted, it would mean the children of the neighborhood would need to have chips installed – which definitely falls onto the morally questionable side. And creating the network of portals would be expensive and largely impractical (and I really don’t think the Historical Society would go for it).

So, lacking that visibility, this will likely be another year where too much supply is amassed and is ultimately delivered to the office kitchen table for final distribution – which is the HL Group Halloween supply chain tradition.


What are your Halloween traditions? And if you care to admit to being a supply chain geek like me, how would you improve things?



Anne Hale is the Director of Client Services here at HL Group, Inc.  She manages our client engagements, works with Wes on sales and marketing and always buys too much Halloween candy.