Retailers looking to sink their fangs into the succulent multi-million pound Halloween market must reflect the excitement in-store.

The monster that is Halloween is growing bigger by the year, and was worth £117m in incremental spend within grocery in 2017, up 28% on the previous year, according to Perfetti Van Melle. “Confectionery accounted for a significant £94m of these sales, as people made more planned purchases over impulse, stocking up for trick or treat visits, entertaining at home and gifting,” says trade marketing manager Mark Roberts.

What’s more, it’s sugar confectionery that it is leading the way. Claire James, trade marketing manager for Haribo, says: “Halloween is without doubt the strongest seasonal occasion for Haribo and for sweets, which outperform chocolate as consumers stock up for two important occasions - trick or treating and parties.” The firm achieved 5% year-on-year sales growth during Halloween 2017.

Swizzels has also seen major growth over the spooky season. ‘‘Halloween is the biggest calendar event for sugar confectionery, and Swizzels typically sees its share of sugar confectionery double at Halloween in comparison to the rest of the year,” says sales director Mark Walker. “Total sugar confectionery sales in convenience stores over the weeks of Halloween are over £36m and the occasion is growing – sales over Halloween in convenience were up 12% year on year.”

Richard Dance, who owns seven Welcome Co-op stores in Southampton, is looking to capitalise on the scarefest. “Halloween is our biggest season after Christmas and Easter,” he says. “It used to be Bonfire Night. Historically we sold fireworks but we’ve completely stopped those and Halloween’s the really big thing. People seem to have swapped one for the other.”

He has most success with trick or treat products. “We really push the trick or treat sweets. We have Haribo and Swizzels tubs, the [chocolate] sharing tubs in for Christmas, Mars and Twix funsize packs and Halloween lollies. We have piles of those by the tills. Cakes go quite well too and we have a dressing up stand with hats and make-up. Party food and soft drinks go well too.”

Mandi Duncan has also seen good sales of party fodder at her Barassie Day-Today store in Troon, South Ayrshire. “The kids have parties at home so party food sells well and apples for bobbing and monkey nuts too (even though most kids won’t eat them!),” she says. “Kids here go trick or treating and people give them goodie bags, so we make up goodie bags to sell with crisps, sweets, juice and a wee novelty toy. We make a 25% margin on them.”

She reports high sales of sugar confectionery for trick or treating, in particular Swizzels Halloween Drumstick Squashies.

Confectionery is also the star of the show at the two Spar stores in Saltburn-by-the-Sea run by Rachael Gosnay. “Spar focus a plan for Halloween with 2l pops – Fanta always goes in with the packaging – and Halloween-themed sweets. Pound bags of wrapped sweets like Haribo and Swizzels Loadsa Lollies are popular for trick or treaters,” she says.

Swizzels’ Loadsa bags include individually-wrapped sweets, lollies and chews. They are the bestselling sugar variety bags at Halloween, and are in year on year growth, according to the company.

Variety packs are also worth your consideration. In convenience, variety pack sales are five times higher at Halloween versus the rest of the year, says Swizzels, which claims that its brands account for nine of the top 10 bestselling sugar variety packs sold at Halloween in convenience.

The company recommends its 210g Swizzels Trick or Sweet bag, containing Double Lollies, Love Hearts, and the Sour Apple Refreshers chew bar with Halloween-themed wrappers.

And new for 2018, Swizzels is introducing a 420g Treat Time tub.

Swizzels will be supporting its Halloween range with a ‘Halloween Sorted’ campaign across its website and social platforms.

In terms of impulse treats, Halloween chocolates are still a winner. Mandi notes that Smarties Pumpkins and Milkybar Ghosts are big hits, but she would like to see some innovation from Cadbury as last year she had leftover stock. “Kids want something different, they should do something new,” she says.

Rachael is also hopeful for some new lines from Cadbury. “Ghooost Egg sales have slowed down, they are becoming a bit old,” she claims.

Fear not - Cadbury is on the case! Last year, Mondelez claims that its Ghooost Egg was the UK’s number one Halloween self-treat, selling 1.4 million units. But this year it’s RIP for both the Ghooost Egg and the Cadbury Spider as Mondelez reveals Cadbury Goo Heads. Available in creepy skeleton, pumpkin, Frankenstein, Dracula or werewolf variants, the foil-wrapped products are sold individually (rrp 55p) or in packs of five (rrp £2.85). They also come in a Mini sharing bag format (rrp £1.49). Each gruesome head is filled with gooey white fondant encased in a Cadbury chocolate egg-shaped shell. Sound familiar? Perhaps … but when you have a winning formula, sometimes a simple tweak can be enough to spark consumers interest, claims Rachael. “It’s hard in retail to find things that are different, a little bit of NPD is always helpful,” she says. “It’s like how Haribo do Scaremix instead of Starmix. We’re not reinventing the wheel, but it does help in terms of offering something new.”

Scaremix and Tangfastricks are returning for 2018. In Scaremix the Haribo Egg has become a Toffee Apple Eyeball, whilst the Heart Throb now takes on a combination of creepy colours in blackcurrant and bubblegum flavours. Boo Bears and Dracula Rings have also been added to the mix, alongside a blood orange brew for the Bottle.

Meanwhile, Tangfastricks contain standard tangy treat pieces, but one in every three is a super-sour trick.

Haribo Trick or Treat multipacks containing either 11 or 35 pre-portioned bags are also returning.

However, the firm advises retailers to stock standard packs, such as Tangfastics Minis, Starmix Minis, and Maoam Stripes, Joystixx and MaoMix, alongside themed packs. “Available all year round, these treats support the occasion and those retailers who do not want to risk being left with themed stock after the event.”

Perfetti van Melle has also taken this issue into account. “Our Halloween packaging complements a fun, seasonal display,” says Roberts. “However, we’re aware that themed confectionery can have a short life span and presents risk, potentially costing retailers more in the long run.

“With this in mind, we have given our core range a spooky makeover, but kept the artwork very simple, tapping into shoppers’ trust for our leading brands such as Fruittella and Chupa Chups.” Last year, with the new artwork for the Juicy Chews and Duo Stick Halloween packs, Fruittella’s Halloween bags grew by 79%, he claims.

Rachael agrees that stocking both plain and themed packs is a winning formula. “Theming the packaging prompts people to buy into it, but it’s getting the balance right between themed and unthemed products because you can keep the unthemed products afterwards,” she says.

And it’s not enough to simply stock the right products, you need to embrace in-store theatre to really make a killing.

Last year, Rachael sported a vampire outfit in-store and was joined by fellow staff members dressed as Dracula and a skeleton. “We’ve done it for the past four years so it’s expected now,” says Rachael. “The staff enjoy it because it’s something a bit different. It makes upselling easier because you have the costume.

“We always decorate the store with cobwebs and Spar radio will be themed at Halloween.”

Richard’s team are equally keen to get involved. “Staff get on board with Halloween, getting dressed up as witches and mummies and decorating the store,” says Richard. “We get our usual [point of sale] kit from the Co-op and then the managers have a small budget to do what they like with, so there are usually a lot of cobwebs, spiders, fake blood and axes going on.

“Last year, one of our stores held an apple bobbing competition and a lucky dip with wrapped up bottles where some had wine, some had soft drinks and some were full of water. It was quite a success and raised money for a local charity.”

Mandi is a self-confessed fright night fanatic. “Halloween is massive for us,” she says. “We decorate the shop big time with ghosts, bats, spiders and cobwebs for the whole of October, but it isn’t too scary because it’s for little children too.

“We build on it every year. The whole ceiling is covered in spiderwebs. It takes me two or three hours to put that up alone, but it’s worth it. People just come in to have a look and see what we’re up to and they spend money.”

They up the ante on the day itself with all the staff dressed up around a theme. “Last year we were St Trinians and the year before we were Batman, it was good fun and makes for a great atmosphere,” says Mandi. “If kids come into the shop dressed up they get a wee Halloween bag with sweets, crisps and a juice. We gave out over 200 last Halloween, it was amazing.”

Mandi also awards prizes across different age groups for the best dressed kids and posts their photos on the local Facebook page.

The store provides entertainment too with party games and food. “Halloween night is always very busy. The parents come in dressed up too and we have party games. They come in after school and the event runs until about 8pm on a school night. I always make up jellies with something horrible inside - I do different layers with a jelly spider in the middle.”

Mandi concedes that to really get the most out of Halloween, you have to invest time and effort into stocking the right mix of products, dressing up the store, and interacting with your customers.

“The community atmosphere is amazing at Halloween and sales are up bigtime – last year we were up about 25% compared to the previous year,” she says. “The feedback you get from being such a big part of the community is brilliant and the customers show you very, very loyal support. That can only help grow your business.”

Halloween is a piece of cake for Premier Foods

Halloween is the third biggest season of the year for Premier Foods.

Cadbury Cakes experienced growth of 31% last season, which the company attributes, in part, to bigger sharing formats, which offer value for money and are suitable for groups at parties. “The use of familiar, iconic products with a Halloween twist also drives value and fits well with the occasion,” notes channel director Steve Kelly.

This year sees the launch of the Cadbury Pumpkin Patch Gateau (rrp £3), catering for eight portions of chocolate cake and topped with an orange pumpkin plaque, as well as the return of Mr Kipling Fiendish Fancies and Terrifying Toffee Whirls.

The company claims it is beneficial for retailers to have a range of Bonfire Night products as an extension of their Halloween range to get ahead of shopper demand early.

Available from October, Mr Kipling toffee apple Slices and chocolate & marshmallow Slices bring warming flavours that fit well with the Bonfire Night occasion.

Cadbury Cakes is also launching Mini Bonfire Logs, a honeycomb twist on the iconic mini roll.


Hauntingly good home baking

Dr Oetker claims that home bakers are looking for inspiration and excitement in store during the run up to Halloween. “The season is all about elaborate spooky decorations and there is a 29% uplift in value sales of cake decorations during this period, proving the potential for sales,” says Riccardo Panichi, head of marketing cake & dessert.

“A key target audience for Halloween is families, as parents bake with their children for parties, bake sales or even trick or treaters, therefore the fixture should be bright and fun to appeal to these shoppers.”

This year, the firm expects to see novelty 3D creations made out of icing and marzipan, spooky themed cake pops, biscuits and krispie cakes. “Seasonal flavours are also key. For example toffee, apple, cinnamon and pumpkin are being used frequently during autumnal baking,” says Panichi. “With more and more consumers finding reasons to bake for Halloween, retailers should ensure their home baking fixture features everything customers need to create ghoulish bakes.” The key home baking products to stock for Halloween are Dr. Oetker’s Fine Cook’s Chocolate, Regal-Ice Ready To Roll Icing, and Extra Strong Gel Colours.

“Food Colours are one of the most essential products for Halloween baking, in particular, orange, black, green and red which are key for spooky designs,” notes Panichi.


Passionate about pumpkins

Nothing screams Halloween like a pumpkin – they add a great touch of in-store theatre, as well as being strong sellers in their own right. “Pumpkins are a big, big part of our Halloween,” says Mandi Duncan, co-owner of two stores in South Ayrshire. “We sell out every time and we decorate the shop with them as well. Last year we got at least 60 and they all went, so we’re looking to order more this year.”

Richard Dance’s Welcome Co-op stores in Southampton also do a roaring trade. “Fresh pumpkins are as strong as ever and pumpkin carving kits too,” he says. “We get pallets of about 30 or 40 pumpkins. We sell well over 100 in our busiest stores. Sales are generally steady, although it’s dependent on what kind of a year it’s been for pumpkins. Some years they go a bit mushy early or if they’re super small ones people aren’t so keen. We keep sales history from year to year so we know what to order.”