You may dismiss Halloween as an American import, but it’s increasingly big business in the UK, particularly for retailers, wholesalers, and those in the hospitality industry. Only Christmas and Easter are bigger dates in the sales calendar, so smaller businesses should take note. It’s estimated that this year’s event will be worth £283.4 million to British retailers through sales of sweets, costumes, and party supplies. Even greengrocers see a run on pumpkins around this time. And pubs, bars, hotels, and restaurants also have the chance to take a slice of the fright-filled action in the run-up to October 31.
Keep it in the family
Families are marginally more likely to celebrate Halloween, given children’s enthusiasm for the event, so business owners might think about tailoring their marketing efforts for parents, particularly in the last two weeks of October. Two-thirds of Halloween shoppers will be looking out for themed purchases the week beforehand, according to Savvy Marketing. Plus, this year, October 31 falls in half-term in many parts of the UK, so retailers could make larger sales and right up to the last minute. Savvy estimates that:
- About 60 per cent of families with children will be marking the occasion this year.
- Of those who plan to celebrate, more than seven out of ten will buy sweets or other small treats. Halloween sweet sales will be worth £54 million alone.
- More than a third will dress up, and about £64 million will be spent on Halloween fancy dress this year.
It’s a great opportunity for wholesalers, and shopkeepers. Almost half of shoppers want to see some Halloween-themed products in shops, so retailers should think about decorating part of their store, giving over more space to relevant merchandise, and increasing their range of ghoulish goodies.
And online sellers needn’t miss out. They still have time to spur Halloween sales, putting themed links on the home page of their website, tweeting and using other social media to push promotions, or sending out a last-minute marketing email to their regular mailing list.
Of course, Halloween isn’t just about children having fun and trick-or-treating. The scare-fest can be a very adult affair, and the 18-to-34-year-old age group is one of the most enthusiastic about the occasion. Savvy found that almost half of young adults plans to mark the day – or, more probably, evening – this year. They also have money to spend.
- Almost a third of people have plans to go to a Halloween party, and about a fifth will host one of their own.
- About £117 million will be spent on food and drink for get-togethers on or around October 31 this year. Add in home decorations, and this spend reaches £283 million.
It’s not just retailers benefitting from plans to mark All Hallows’ Eve. Many people will opt to go out to themed bar and club nights, or even take the weekend away. Marketing savvy restaurateurs will be offering special menus, or drinks deals and prizes to those in fancy dress. Enterprising bar owners can host Halloween parties, and devise gory cocktails for the night. Some hotels are even teaming up with local ghost walk operators to offer a package for guests of accommodation, food, and a spooky guided tour, particularly in places known for their haunted history, such as Edinburgh and London.
Business owners in some towns are pooling their efforts to attract the most Halloween custom. Firms in the North West are joining together this year to promote a Haunted Blackpool weekend. The event includes scary rides at the famous Pleasure Beach, macabre dining experiences, family-focussed parties, and ghost walks. Local hotels and B&Bs are getting in on the act, providing accommodation for fright-seeking visitors.
Whitby is another town using Halloween to full effect, appropriately so given it’s the place where novelist Bram Stoker was inspired to write Dracula. The North Yorkshire town is holding its annual Goth Weekend between October 31 and November 2, which centres around a music festival, but also proves a great boost to small businesses in the vicinity. Tourist chiefs calculate that the influx of goths from around the world brings an extra £1.1 million in revenue to the town annually.
Given that it occurs just once a year, Halloween lends itself particularly well to pop-up shops. Only one in ten UK consumers says they have a shop nearby that’s a good source of Halloween goods, according to research from retail agency Live & Breathe. Yet, one in five would use a pop-up retailer selling such products at this time of year, increasing to more than a third in the 18-to-24 age bracket.
In recent years, many entrepreneurs have taken advantage of this growing trend for setting up short-term retail outlets in temporary premises, and combined it with the colourful Halloween festival. Past years have seen the ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ cake and cocktail pop-up appear in Smithfield market in central London; temporary fancy dress shop ‘I Fancy You’ taking residence in an empty shop in East London, touting creepy costumes in the weeks before Halloween; and countless combined cinema and food events with appropriately frightening themes taking place all over the UK. Pop-ups are also a particularly good chance for online retailers to enter the physical buying space for a short spell, and Halloween can be the perfect excuse if a company’s products or services suit the occasion.
Be properly prepared
The ghost-and-ghoul-charged fun is a potentially very lucrative time of year, and many businesses could get a significant financial boost by channelling some Halloween horror. But they should be careful, too. Halloween comes at a busy time, with the run-up to Christmas already in sight. Business owners should be careful not to let marketing efforts for the two occasions overlap too conspicuously. Don’t try to run all of your festive promotions at once, and risk diluting your message.
And if you’re hoping to win more business at this time of year make sure you have the capacity – and stock – to fulfil orders, plus the staff to keep the operation running smoothly. Do a cashflow forecast to ensure you have the money to pay suppliers, and cover staff wages. Consider renegotiating your overdraft facility or arranging for a short-term loan if you realise that your finances are going to be stretched. Overall, you want to be as prepared as possible. The only frights in the coming weeks should be reserved for the Halloween revellers – not your business’s bank account.
Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net