Savvy retailers have realised that embracing in-store theatre and community engagement will guarantee ex-scream-ly good sales.

If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, then pat yourself on the back – you’ve done a great job of bringing Halloween to life in your store. Retailers across the UK are waking up to the idea that if they want Halloween to be a hit, they have to give it their all.

“Five years ago, there was nothing happening during Halloween in the UK,” says Avtar Sidhu, aka Sid, who owns Sukhi’s Simply Fresh in Kenilworth, Warwickshire. “Now we have broomsticks and cobwebs hanging from the ceiling and fake spiders in unexpected places. I’ve had a skeleton hanging from the ceiling and flickering LED candles. This year a member of staff will be carving pumpkins, too.”

Cloetta UK agrees that retailers who embrace the occasion will reap the rewards. “When creating theatre, retailers should think creatively, appealing to both adults and children,” says Bev Seymour, commercial manager of Cloetta, which is bringing back its Chewits Vampire Fangs for another year.

“Any theatre should show the cross-range of products that are applicable to Halloween, from children’s trick or treating confectionery to adults’ party drinks. Great ideas can be cauldrons full of sweets, carved out pumpkins and Halloween decorations, for example.”

Harj Dhasee of Mickleton Village Stores in Gloucestershire throws himself into Halloween wholeheartedly. “We dress the whole shop with bats and spiders. The staff dress up as vampires, witches and ghosts. The kids love coming in, and the parents do, too. It’s about making the effort and showing that you care.”

Pumpkins are a smash hit

Not only did pumpkins make for an amazing display at Nisa Pinkie in Musselburgh, Edinburgh, last Halloween, they also turned out to be big sellers. “In 2014 we sold 30 pumpkins – 10 extra-large £15 pumpkins, 15 £8 large, and the rest priced between £2 and £5,” says manager Colin Smith, “but last year we sold 50 and sold out the day before Halloween. This year we’ll probably order 70.”

Harj Dhasee of Mickleton Village Stores in Gloucestershire has adopted a different approach, but with equally pleasing results. “We play the volume game,” he says. “We sold more than 200 pumpkins last year priced between £1 and £5.”

He claims that organisation is the name of the game. “You have to pre-plan: get down the market for pumpkins, or find a good fruit supplier. You need to get them in early and display them right – showing off at least 10 or 15. Have them in by the second week of October. It’s all about the build-up. You need to inspire your customers.”

He claims that decorating the store is a small expense that makes all the difference. “Halloween decorations aren’t expensive. You can spend £50 at B&M and get pumpkin lanterns. It’s an investment every two or three years. Our Halloween sales were up about 8% from the previous year.”

Spar Limavady in County Londonderry, is another fright night fan. “We decorate the shop with witches figurines, cobwebs on the ceiling and facemasks, and we have a nut and apple display with peanuts and Brazil nuts and apple tarts at the front of the store,” says owner Brian Quigg. “I’m usually in the top three in the dressing the store competition run by Hendersons.”

And his efforts are paying off. “Our Halloween sales were up last year and I’m hopeful that they will do even better this year.”

Tony Lipscombe, Premier Neyland Supermarket in Pembrokeshire, likes to get in on the act early. “We have a big stand up a month before with costumes, plastic pumpkins and long nails. It’s important to get it up early. Some people will buy early, but many will come and buy from you later because they know that you stock Halloween goods.

As it gets closer to the day, we have a display with pumpkins and confectionery at the counter. We have a bit of POS material from Booker – shelf-edge strips and ceiling banners – and the staff dress up as witches and pumpkins. Our sales were up about 5% last year.”

Hancocks agrees that timing is crucial in order to take full advantage of Halloween sales. “Purchasing for the holiday occurs close to the event. However, it is vital retailers display their ghoulish goodies early,” says Hancocks purchasing director Jonathan Summerley.

“Retailers should start showcasing their spooky stock at the end of September. Maximise impact by combining product categories into one big, attention-grabbing display instead of grouping each category separately in different areas of the store. By doing so you are more likely to interrupt customers’ shopping journeys, likely to result in higher impulse buys.”

Customers at Nisa Pinkie in Musselburgh, Edinburgh, are treated to a howlingly good display. “Halloween is becoming bigger every year,” says store manager Colin Smith. “It’s right to follow seasons and make an impact – it’s incremental sales.”

He is quick to get his themed goods on display. “I did my Halloween order at the beginning of July. Three to four weeks prior to Halloween we’ll start putting items up,” he says. “We do two BJ Toys display stands – it gives you good margins of 35%. It’s full of costumes, hats, make-up and decorations. We have Nisa POS material, too, and we’ll create a themed entrance with four 6ft tables with seasonal confectionery, toffee apples, themed cakes and Halloween packs. Retailers need to go for it – create space and make an impact and you’ll see sales. Don’t just incorporate Halloween products into the shelves, they’ll get lost.

“Halloween week is the main time for sales. We sold about £4,000-£5,000 worth of themed goods and pumpkins.”

Confectionery is also a Halloween hit for Lesley Ovington, manager of myCostcutter Insch in Aberdeen. “We dress the promotional end of the confectionery aisle in Halloween-themed sweets. We make sure we have trick or treat sweets and last year we had Screme Eggs and Haribo Halloween-themed bags. We have marshmallows and toffee apples, too. They’re good sellers.”

There are plenty of terrifying treats to choose from this year. Mondelez International, which has a 21% share of the total Halloween market, is replacing its top-selling Screme Egg with a Cadbury Ghooost Egg filled with gooey white fondant. The new packs will offer customers the chance to win a family ticket to Alton Towers Scarefest if they find one of 50 hidden eggs containing a yolk and winning coupon.

Cadbury Crunchy Spider is back for 2016. Featuring Cadbury chocolate filled with green crispy bites, it is the third most popular SKU at Halloween, worth £376,000, claims the firm.

Mars Chocolate UK is also getting in on the festivities with the M&M’s Halloween limited-edition peanut range, which was the number one Halloween pouch in 2015. In addition, the company is releasing treat funsize bags of chocolate M&M’s (rrp £2.79).

Trade communications manager Bep Dhaliwal said: “Halloween is a rapidly-growing season within the confectionery sector, with sharing bags growing by 9.8% over the past five years and Halloween-specific sharing formats growing by 4%.”

But it’s not all about chocolate. “Halloween is unlike Christmas and Easter, which can be dominated by chocolate, as Trick or Treat gifts traditionally consist of sugar confectionery,” says Mark Roberts, trade marketing manager at Perfetti Van Melle (PVM). “The category lends itself to the occasion, with formats that are playful and easy to share.”

PVM’s Chupa Chups Halloween bag contains 14 lollipops in assorted flavours, while the Fruitella Spooky Family Bag builds on the success of the Fruitella Hotel Transylvania bag from 2015 and contains three gruesome flavours: blackcurrant & strawberry; cola & lemon; and orange & banana. Meanwhile, Fruitella Favourites Halloween Mix is a sharing bag of chews, sticks and bars.

The firm has also added Chupa Chups Spooky Pizza (rrp £5), themed with snakes and spiders, which comes in shelf-ready packaging and freestanding display units, and the Chupa Chups Monstrous Pop (rrp 25p). Kids can lick this fruit flavoured lollipop to change the colour of the spooky eye. It’s available in three new flavours: blueberry-lemon; cola-lemon; and strawberry-lemon.

Get your share of Home-baking sales

Thanks to the popularity of Halloween parties and the fact the event coincides with the school half-term, the home-baking category also gets 
a boost come October 31.

Dr Oetker executive head of marketing Jan McKee says Halloween is one of the biggest home baking occasions behind Christmas and Easter.

“Sales of cake decorations and ingredients increased 42% in the weeks leading to Halloween, versus the yearly average,” she reveals.

Halloween baking is especially focused on children and families baking together during the school holidays, she says. “Retailers should be prepared well in advance of Halloween. Food colours are a key subcategory during the period, as bakers get creative with colour. Our Gel Food colours saw a 98% uplift year on year over Halloween last year, with red performing particularly well alongside seasonal colours black and orange. Writing icing was up 84%, and the icing category up 20%, highlighting the importance of having a range that allows bakers to get creative and personalise their bakes.”

She claims that the key lines to stock are Dr Oetker orange, black and red Gel Colour, Regal-Ice ready to roll Icing and Fine Cook’s Chocolate.

The brand is being given a £1.6m marketing spend to drive sales over Halloween, The Great British Bake Off and Christmas periods.

Wrigley confections marketing manager Dan Newell agrees that Halloween is sugar confectionery’s chance to shine. “Halloween presents retailers with a platform to increase sugar confectionery sales, with the category holding a 55% share of all confectionery sales during the Halloween period, compared with 19% average share across the rest of the year,” he says. “Last year Wrigley’s confectionery sales grew by 25% in total market across the Halloween season, supported by the limited-edition launches.”

This season sees the return of Starburst Trick or Treat packs and Skittles Darkside hanging bags, which come in forbidden fruit, midnight lime, blood orange, pomegranate and dark berry, the dark indigo flavours (rrp £1.28).

Says Newell: “Our seasonal range is available for three months in various convenient pack formats, which suit a range of Halloween activities.” Wrigley will be providing Halloween-themed POS material.

Retailers Harj and Tony both claim that Swizzels is a top seller during Halloween, and Swizzels agrees that Halloween is a key season for the firm. “Halloween 2015 was the best week of sales in Swizzels’ history and we expect it will be a busy time for us again in 2016,” says NPD brand manager Claire Lee. “We have a large range of products that are ideal for sharing over the season as they are individually wrapped, as well as offering variety and value for money.”

New for 2016 are limited-edition Drumstick Squashies in orange & blackcurrant flavour (rrp £1) and the Monster Treats bag (rrp £4). Meanwhile, Trick or Sweet bags (rrp £1) contain a selection of favourites and The Trick or Treat Lolly mix bag (rrp £3) includes Monster Double Lollies, Drumstick Lollies with seasonal orange and black wrappers and pumpkin-themed Fruity Pops.

Haribo Scaremix has spookified the usual Starmix by turning the egg into a Toffee Apple eyeball and the heart has become blackcurrant and bubblegum flavour. Boo Bears and Dracula rings have also been added to the mix, alongside a blood orange brew for the bottle.

With Haribo’s new limited-edition TangfasTricks, what looks like a treat could be a trick, as this bag contains standard tangy pieces as well as hot and super-sour ones. About one in three pieces will be a trick. These limited editions will also come together in a special pumpkin-shaped Duo tub.

In addition to stocking a vast selection of ghastly goods, retailers must also embrace the opportunity to engage with their local communities. “For the past two years, we’ve done pumpkin displays and a Halloween party,” says Colin. “We got 70 kids in doing apple bobbing, treasure hunts in-store, getting their faces painted and taking part in a fancy dress competition. The numbers doubled last year. People who come to the store on Halloween aren’t there to shop that night – it’s about integrating with the community.”

Harj is equally passionate about reaching out to the community. “At Blockley Village Shop, where I worked as a retail consultant between August and December last year, we ran a pumpkin carving competition and it went crazy! We used Nisa goody bags and every child was a winner.”

He urges other retailers to get into the spirit of the occasion. “I’m a massive advocate of Halloween. After Christmas and Easter, Halloween is our number three event. The value you can drive if you do it right is brilliant. You should treat it like Christmas in terms of theatre – you can make a killing!”