Halloween is the third most celebrated occasion in the UK after Christmas and Easter, with at least 1.5 million households participating last year (TNS, December 2005). And although the festival may never scale the heights it does in the USA, October 31 is one date retailers here shouldn't forget.
Each year expenditure at Halloween increases. Last year it reached £120m in 2005, and within this, confectionery sales grew by more than £5.5m (TNS Superpanel).
It isn't just confectionery that sells, either, and manufacturers across the board are waking up to the opportunities that the season provides. From savoury snacks to bottled water, alcohol to pumpkins and costumes, it's important retailers don't miss a trick (or treat).
Children's sweet manufacturer Haribo Dunhills says Halloween 2006 is set to be bigger than ever before. Managing director Per Henerius says: "Halloween has really taken off in the UK over the past five years as more young consumers have become aware of American culture and the tradition of Halloween through films and TV programmes.
"It's now firmly established as part of the calendar of events in the UK and a significant number of children go trick or treating. This means many parents will be looking for confectionery to give young visitors a treat on Halloween night."
Henerius says it's important to remember confectionery is an impulse-driven market and adds: "Retailers need to display lines with a seasonal or topical slant because this will stimulate impulse purchase. They can also maximise impact by creating theatre in and around fixtures to create excitement and encourage more shoppers to buy. By using window and door stickers or some balloons and a few jack-o-lanterns, they can create a really eye-catching display."
Confectionery wholesaler Hancocks is also expecting demand to rise in the coming weeks. Purchasing director Richard Brittle says retailers don't need to put in a huge amount of effort to see profits rise. "Hancocks has a good range of spooky and scary sweets that are available all year round," he says. "Making a feature of these around Halloween can provide a strong point of difference for retailers while ensuring they don't get stuck with one-off products after the event."
According to Brittle, pick and mix sales also increase at Halloween by about 15-20%. "It helps that school half-term also falls at the end of October," he explains. "We have a great selection of weighouts to add a bit of spook. The trick is to select carefully and display well. Confectionery is all about having fun and there is no better time than at Halloween."
Specialist toy and confectionery bag manufacturer Mr Lucky Bags is capitalising on the increased interest in the season by launching a number of new products. New for 2006 is a Scooby-Doo Party Pack. The pack contains 25 Halloween-inspired sweets and toys and retails at £3.99.
The company has also introduced two Halloween capsules. The eyeball and pumpkin surprise capsules each contain a minimum of four toy and confectionery items and retail for £1. The capsules are available as single or mixed cases. The line joins a range that also includes a Trick 'n' Treat lucky bag, a larger Halloween fun pack and a Simpsons branded Halloween fun pack.
Scooby-Doo also features in ChoiceUK's Halloween activity. The DVD supplier is launching a £4.99 deal on four Scooby-Doo titles and believes the season offers a real opportunity for retailers to cash in by adding to their stock of children's cartoon and horror films. ChoicesUK head of DVD buying Emma Selby says: "Halloween is one of the few events that is tailormade to sell movies to the broadest possible customer base. DVDs are perfect for parents who want an alternative to trick or treating."
Selby says that by adding DVDs to an existing Halloween offering, retailers can create a one-stop destination for shoppers to buy their party package. She adds: "We can offer a great selection of titles from £4.99 to £9.99. As well as Scooby-Doo, other movies that perform well include Beetlejuice, Corpse Bride, House of Wax and The Goonies."
ChoicesUK isn't the only supplier getting in on the action. In the savoury snacks category Procter & Gamble is introducing special Halloween tubes of Pringles.
The company is offering a new take on six existing flavours including sour screeeam and ooohnion, chilling chilli and ooohriginal.
Elsewhere, Highland Spring is launching a 12-pack of 330ml bottles featuring Halloween water droplet characters. Marketing director Sally Stanley believes Halloween can be a fantastic opportunity for retailers to increase sales of healthy products and says: "Parents are looking for healthy alternatives to other soft drinks at a time when children usually overindulge on too many sugar-laden drinks and snacks."
Home baking is another category that can boost profits. Fiddes Payne's seasonal portfolio includes a Halloween cup cake kit. Anchor is also expecting good sales of its limited-edition I-Scream real dairy cream, which is being supported by a £1m marketing spend.
It's not only children that manufacturers are focusing on, though. A growing number of adults are holding parties of their own and Scottish & Newcastle head of customer marketing Craig Clarkson says retailers should up their alcohol offer for the season. Clarkson explains: "In previous years our investment in Halloween has helped us buck the trend in a usually quiet season for the sector."
S&N's plans include a text-to-win promotion on Strongbow as well as sponsorship of Living TV's Most Haunted Live.
The wide range of manufacturers investing in Halloween is proof of the growing interest in the event. With some careful merchandising, retailers should expect some spook-tacular sales.

Pump up the volume

Pumpkin producers across the UK are enjoying a healthy trade, with pumpkin spending up by 32% in 2005. Spalding in Lincolnshire can lay claim to being the pumpkin capital of the UK, where producer David Bowman grows more than two million a year.
David's pumpkin farm spans 324 acres and employs 80 staff during the busiest harvesting season in September and October. "From our sales, it's evident that Halloween is certainly becoming more and more popular," he explains. "Although the majority of our pumpkins are used as lanterns, we have also seen a rise in the sale
of our smaller culinary varieties. There's definitely a market for retailers to take advantage of and pumpkins often sell well when they are on show outside a store."