Once upon a time, Halloween celebrations were simple affairs involving bobbing for apples, face-painting and perhaps the odd candy frog or three.
Those days are over. Halloween is now big business in the UK and Brits are spending upwards of £120m each year on themed novelties, confectionery and drinks.
In fact, the market for ghoulish goodies has grown at an average rate of more than 50% since 2003, meaning that retailers who get it right can make a killing.
One retailer doing just that is David Smith, who runs Smiths Corner Stores in Grimoldby, Louth. “For me, Halloween fills the themed promotional requirement between the end of the summer and beginning of the Christmas period,” he says. And Halloween has become even more important to David since he took the decision to stop stocking fireworks almost 10 years ago.
“We have a dedicated one-metre floor stand in our seasonal promotional space from the beginning of October until Halloween for costumes, toys and associated paraphernalia, and we have definitely seen an increase in sales in recent years,” he says.
“We also stock several lines of themed confectionery and I cannot remember ever being left with any after the event. Plus we stock up on our normal 5p and 10p confectionery, sales of which increase five-fold during the week before Halloween.”
Another retailer reaping the rewards of Halloween is Chris Pollard of Barlby Village Stores in Selby, Yorkshire. For the past seven years Chris has been bulk-buying penny sweets from his wholesaler and making up smaller individual bags which he sells to customers at £1 each. “I put them all in a large dump bin at the front of the store with a sign saying ‘Trick or Treat Specials’ and they just fly out,” he says. Chris estimates that he sold almost 800 bags in the days before and after last year’s event.
Richard Brittle, purchasing director at Hancocks cash and carry, agrees that low-priced confectionery items are a “must”. “Confectionery plays a key role in a Halloween display,” he says. “Pick and mix always sells well at this time of year and any retailer can tweak their range a little to include items such as Red Eye Skulls, Fangs, Bones, Spiders and Skeletons,” he adds.
Sales of branded bagged sweets also soar over the Halloween period, and Haribo says that the months of October and November – which include Bonfire Night and school half-term – represent one of the biggest peaks in its sales calendar.
“A significant proportion of the increase comes from the uplift in sales of Magic Mix and Horror Mix, as well as some of our other lines such as Maoam Stripes and Mao Mix bags, perfect for handing out to trick or treaters,” says Haribo Pontefract managing director Herwig Vennekens.
Haribo Horror Mix and Magic Mix have been given a fresh look for Halloween and both are available in seasonal 225g Mini Mix bags.
Also back this year are Cadbury Trick and Treat Bags. The spooky shaped biscuits include pumpkins, skulls and ghosts.
And with the credit crunch biting this year, many adults who might have previously visited pubs and clubs may instead choose a spooky night at home, meaning that soft and alcoholic drinks, crisps and adult confectionery should sell well.
Cadbury trade communications manager Kate Harding says that larger-sized treat confectionery will be in demand as a result. “Shoppers will be looking to purchase favourites such as Cadbury Heroes and Cadbury Roses to share with family and friends,” she says.
Toffee-maker Walkers Nonsuch has repackaged its traditional Andy Pack 100g bars and 150g prepack bags in a striking black, white and orange wrapper in time for the Halloween season, while new from Burton’s Foods is Cadbury Halloween Mallows.
Promotions also play an important role in the run up to Halloween and this year is no exception.
Coca-Cola is launching an interactive on-pack promotion across Fanta, Sprite and Dr Pepper 2ltr bottles and 6x330ml cans. The themed packs will include special Halloween-inspired recipes for party potions such as ‘Orange Eyeball Punch’.
Coca-Cola Enterprises trade communications manager Kenny Chisholm says that retailers can maximise the Halloween opportunity by creating in-store theatre around relevant products, dual-siting and using dedicated pos material.
Britvic sales director Andrew Richards suggests that retailers also stock a wide variety of popular children’s party drinks such as Robinsons Fruit Shoot, Robinsons Fruit Shoot H2O, and Robinsons squash as well as treat drinks such as Tango, Pepsi and 7UP.
“In particular, Tango is the perfect fit for any Halloween-themed event due to its orange colour and association with fun,” Richards says.
But it’s not just sweets and drinks that shoppers will be looking for, says Robert Bannister, managing director of frozen potato company Farmhouse Potato Bakers. The company has just introduced a new brand, Bannisters’ Farm, which includes four frozen Ready Baked Potatoes cross-cut and drizzled with olive oil, ideal as a warming dish after trick or treating.