British children have taken the US tradition of Halloween to their hearts, giving a pre-Christmas boost to retailers.

For anyone over 30 years of age Halloween is something that people in the States do and the idea of British kids dressed in costume going from door to door asking for sweets is just too, well, American. But, as anyone with children will know, Halloween is now an accepted part of the British calendar and retailers who ignore it could be missing a trick.

Obviously, the occasion is nowhere near as popular as it is in the US where Halloween is worth around £3bn in sales (source: US National Retail Federation) and the average household spends around $43 on the event. However, it is seeing a significant growth in the UK - around 25% year on year (source: Mori Pool/Walkers) at £41m (source: AC Nielsen).

While the US Halloween market towers over that of the UK, the trends are broadly the same, with non-food items dominating sales, followed by confectionery.
Haribo Dunhills managing director Per Henerius says: “There is a market surge in confectionery sales at Halloween. In the last Halloween period, sales of Horror Mix increased by 89% and sales of Magic Mix soared by 48%, so you can see where the opportunities lie.” He says retailers who cater for the uplift in demand will reap the greatest benefits.

Masterfoods trade relations manager Andrea Taylor warns retailers not to overlook the season: “It’s an important category and you shouldn’t ignore it.” Petty, Wood commercial director John Weaver says that c-stores are often in the best place to benefit from Halloween: “Independent retailers can really profit from events like Halloween where consumers are looking for fun, novelty items that they can pick up locally on their way home.”

But, says Cadbury head of customer relations Mike Tipping, retailers need to think hard about stock and merchandising because: “The retailers that really benefit from Halloween are those taking merchandising seriously.”

Nestlé Rowntree sales communications manager Graham Walker says he sees the growing popularity of the event as an indicator of a wider trend: “I think the whole occasions market is really beginning to beef up year on year, whether it’s back to school, Halloween, Valentine’s Day or whatever. There’s a sense that not only are the public making more of it, retailers are making more too. Because we’re working longer hours now, whenever we have an excuse to enjoy ourselves, we do it.”

A season like Halloween allows retailers to create interest with a bit of theatre in their shops to drive footfall, plus there’s the added benefit of limited edition launches from well-known brands. Walkers, for instance, has relaunched its limited edition cheese-flavoured Quavers Ghosts and pickled onion flavour Monster Munch Spooky Tongue for eight weeks from August 28. Both products add interest for consumers and Spooky Tongue is bound to delight kids as they end up with a blue tongue after eating them.

Petty, Wood is offering special Halloween items such as cans of chocolate spiders and a box of Spooky White Chocolate Ghosts, both for £1.99, and bags of Pickled Brain and Jelly Eye Ball sweets for 69p. “These are perfect impulse purchases,” says Weaver. “By stocking a selection of products throughout the store, shoppers can just add them to their baskets while they’re browsing the shelves. An attractive eye-catching display near a till point can also encourage further purchases, especially if products carry a low price point.”

For customers who are thinking of throwing a special Halloween party, Fiddes Payne has a range of home-baking Halloween kits. The Halloween Cup Cake Kit includes ghoulish green icing and edible miniature spooky cake decorations, retailing at £1.69. The packaging is lime green and luminous orange to maximise shelf standout. Also available is Halloween Magic Miniatures which can be used for decorating cup cakes. They come in ghost, pumpkin and black cat shapes and retail at £1.59.

One sure sign that a season is getting more popular is when one of the larger companies joins in with special products. Nestlé Rowntree has this year launched a range of Halloween products including Orange Smarties Chocolate Pumpkin at 38p, Rowntrees Slimy Spooks at 99p and Smarties Pumpkin Dispenser at £1.99. The company has also introduced the do it yourself decorating Scary Biscuits Kit (rrp £3.99) which kids can use at home.

While it has no plans to produce any ranges of Halloween branded products, Masterfoods reports that its Fun Size range does extremely well around this period: 22% of Fun Size sales are at Halloween. The company currently has a ‘buy three get one free’ on Fun Size in most cash and carries, so that retailers can offer two for £3 on the range. It is also relaunching new Fun Size bags with improved graphic and high shelf standout.

Reflecting research conducted by Masterfoods, the bags have fewer varieties but more of each variety in them and a new sugar Fun Size pack has been introduced. Halloween pos will also be available with wobblers and A2 posters. Haribo also produces a range of pocket money 40g bags at 25p which can be useful for anyone looking for a trick or treat range.
Swizzles Matlow has launched a special Halloween version of its top-selling variety bags, Bumper Bag and Lots of Lollies. The mix of sweets is the same but a special Halloween pack will be available for a limited time.

Mr Lucky Bags has also launched a new Halloween Collection including Tricks ’n Treats, Horror Surprise bag and The Simpsons bag.

Away from the children’s side of things, and proof that adults are also getting into the Halloween spirit, is Scottish Courage Brands which is repeating its Strongbow Halloween special. The company has a number of Halloween promotions planned including new activity around TV’s Most Haunted Live and competitions. The company saw sales of Strongbow increase by 12% in October 2004 versus the previous year, which it attributes, in part, to its significant investment in Halloween.

The biggest sellers at Halloween are in non-food products such as costumes and stationery. According to Premier Groups senior trading controller Colin Atkin, Halloween has become bigger for the trade in the UK than Easter and Valentine’s Day, and as big as Mother’s Day.

The group’s Halloween catalogue has around 100 items aimed at this period, including spider web decorations at £1.99, witches’ hats at £1.99 and vampire blood and glow in the dark fang kits at £1.99. The company has a fully merchandised stand-alone display case shaped like a coffin with products ranging from face make-up to masks.

Mitsubishi Pencil Company marketing manager Clare Gibbard says Halloween is a good time to stock stationery.

The company is producing a special limited edition Halloween triple pack of Uni-ball Signo Gel pens with creepy coffin packaging, perfect for writing ghostly messages.

BIC says its MegaLighter for candles comes into its own at Halloween as its long multi-positional wand is perfect for lighting candles in pumpkins.


When it comes to merchandising Halloween, it seems the more outlandish the better. The key is creating the right environment in store. Retailer Dennis Williams of Broadway Convenience in Edinburgh says Halloween has become an event where he can get all the customers and staff involved in the same way that he does on St Andrew’s Day.

He carries special offers such as last year’s Strongbow incentive, where consumers were give a free Halloween DVD with purchases of the brand, and he gets suppliers involved. “Whatever you think is relevant to the time of year you can get the suppliers’ support,” he says.

Dennis displays a range of toys about six weeks before Halloween and then works the section right up to the day when everyone is in full costume.

The event, he says, is still a gamble, but one which has paid off in the past: “Obviously we’re doing it to create interest and to get more sales through the till. We don’t know if that will happen until the day, but everything we’ve done in the past has been a success.”

Cadbury’s Tipping agrees that retailers have to be brave to succeed: “You can’t do things half-heartedly. It’s having the pumpkins and dressing up and treats. It’s all about in store execution.” He points out that the season isn’t subject to price sensitivity so margins are there to be made. “You’ve got to think of the total occasion and have all the elements required to make that occasion happen.”

Walker says that one of the failings of retailers is to lump Halloween products into the normal fixtures. By creating a special Halloween area, you can drive through sales of not only limited edition products but also of non-Halloween products which would suit the occasion - such as for trick or treating and parties.
Haribo’s Henerius says retailers should make a Halloween display that’s easily visible from the main traffic flow of the shop. Black and orange, the colours of death and harvest, have become those most traditionally associated with Halloween, and decorating a shop with balloons and jack o’ lanterns will emphasise the special feel. Retailers can also publicise the Halloween display by using window and door stickers.

However, due to the short-lived nature of the event, misjudging stock levels can cause problems.

Hancocks purchasing director Richard Brittle says overdoing it can lead to loss of profit in left-over stock. Hancocks’ range of weigh-out spooky sweets are available all the year round and will net a 75% margin.
Stocking branded items will help ensure that over-stocked items will still sell after the event, according to Walker.

With a little imagination and retail knowledge, c-stores should have nothing to fear this Halloween.