High fashion has hit the Halloween pumpkin patch.
For the second year in a row, seasonal products marketer Grand Venture Ltd. is offering blow molded pumpkin pails for trick-or-treaters in shades of purple, magenta and green. Those colors join the traditional orange, as well as a black pumpkin pail that the Washington, Pa.-based firm debuted in 2001.
``We had some success with the black, so we tried the other colors and they seemed to catch on,'' said marketing manager Rick Vettorel.
In addition to the pails, Grand Venture is rolling out 15 new Halloween-themed products this year. Vettorel said the number of new products is unusually high and is the result of the firm's recent acquisition of a group of used molds.
Some of the new products are based on existing molds. For example, a 38-inch-high Christmas candle has been topped off with a pumpkin or skull to create a pair of new products. Other new items include 33-inch-high witch, ghost and skeleton figures; 27-inch Mr. Pumpkin and Mr. Scarecrow figures; and a 38-inch pumpkin tower.
Vettorel said the firm's top Halloween product has been a 23-inch, light-up pumpkin. Although Halloween sales have been growing in recent years, Vettorel said Christmas is still the top market for seasonal plastic products.
``Christmas is bigger than Halloween and Easter put together,'' said Vettorel.
All of Grand Venture's products are made of high density polyethylene and are molded by Falcon Plastics Inc., Grand Venture's sister firm that shares its Washington location. Falcon, which also blow molds trash pails and lawn and garden products for Grand Venture, posted sales of $12 million last year.
Typically, Grand Venture takes seasonal orders for Halloween and Christmas in the first quarter of the year. The firm began molding pumpkin pails and other products in June, and soon shipped 1 million pails to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., its biggest customer.
Vettorel said there are only a handful of good-sized seasonal blow molders in North America. He estimates that General Foam Plastics Corp. of Norfolk, Va., is the largest, followed by Grand Venture.
Unlike many plastics processing markets, foreign competition isn't a big concern at Grand Venture.
``Seasonal blow molded products are big and bulky,'' Vettorel said. ``They don't ship well, because you can't stack them and they contain a lot of air.''
Periodically, Grand Venture will sit down with its customers to discuss new products and recommendations on colors and painting. However, the process doesn't always pay off like the new pumpkin colors did.
``We wanted to add a Mrs. Claus for Christmas this year, but we didn't get enough orders,'' Vettorel said. ``Our nativity sets are doing pretty good, though.''