Monday, August 27, 2018

A Brief & Curious History of Yankee Candle's Boney Bunch

Love them or hate them Yankee Candle's Boney Bunch have created a holiday tradition for many Halloween fans. These ceramic figurines each hold some kind of candle and portray whimsical smiling skeletons in all kinds of punny themes (Death by Chocolate, Head Chef). When the craze began in 2008, the retailer had no idea the kind of demand they would generate and quickly sold out of product. I was still getting catalogs in the mail long after everything was gone and many customers were quite irate.

They came back a second year, and then another – preceded of course by they will-they or won't they return chatter. Parties were thrown in stores, with early hours, costumes, treats and special coupons for everyone. I went to several events to meet the Boneyheads. Everyone loved Halloween and shared stories of previous years purchases. Once the doors open, however, it was every person for themselves. There was grabbing, pushing, bartering, yelling, and even crying. Some people bought hundreds of dollars of stuff (and keep in mind they were once reasonably priced at an average of $10). One entrepreneur bought multiple items and planned to sell them on eBay for triple their worth once they disappeared from the shelves.

According several managers, Yankee Candle planned their year around the Boney Bunch launch sale since for a couple weeks, it was the best selling product of the year. They tried to keep up with demand (and disgruntled late season shoppers) and tiered the release of products. They offered pre-ordering at the store level which was disastrous. They released special editions online only to entice shoppers to stay home and order online, but their aging website always crashed during the fateful Saturday sale. One year they tripled their order of product from the manufacturer and ended up with considerable overstock! (Now overstock is held for the next year as returning favorites and rarely clearance priced.)

Demand seems to have slowed down and the stores don't make a big fuss at launch day anymore. They still advertised launch days but there's hardly a coupon in sight. This year they gave away candles in hoping of propping up sales but it's clear they've forgotten about appeasing the Halloween fans. Gone are the lavish catalogs with the artful photos, the special signage around the store, and the fun videos/games online. This party is over but it was fun while it lasted.

Here are some of my favorite pieces from 2018 that launched this past Saturday (you're in luck – nothing has sold out yet). After 11 years of figures, they've explored just about every theme imaginable but still manage to get a few fun surprises in the mix. Personally I love the more wicked ones that definitely connote the darker side of Halloween – but in a whimsical way (headless clown with skeleton head impaled on a cane, anyone?).


No comments:

Post a Comment