Retail Reflections: brash US import is a money-spinner

Alan Monahan writes: Call me Captain Grumpy, but I’m not a fan of fast-approaching Halloween. We don’t get much trick or treating where I live, but it’s still curtains drawn and lights out in our house to deter little kids from begging for sweets when they should be safely tucked up in bed or playing on their iPads.

Okay, much as I personally dislike this brash American import, I have to acknowledge that it’s great for retailers.

After Christmas and Easter, Halloween is now the UK’s third biggest shopping event. Yes, it has even overtaken Valentine’s Day, for which I do have a soft spot. And you can bet the 12-sided pound in your pocket that this year’s outlay on spooky costumes, frightening food and much more will exceed the £472 million that Verdict predicted would be spent in 2016.

Turnowsky Stationery

As a result of analysing shopper behaviour on its site in the run-up to Halloween last year, eBay is able to demonstrate the huge breadth of opportunities for retailers as consumers gear up for October 31st. Apparently the excitement is spreading well beyond the fancy dress category – to movies, decorations and even electronics.

In 2016, searches for Halloween decorations on ebay.co.uk steadily rose during October, reaching a peak in the third weekend of the month. Signalling a two-week countdown until the big day, that weekend saw a 15% increase in searches for ‘Halloween decorations’ when compared with the first weekend of the month, and an 11% increase in searches for ‘party’.

And as Halloween crept ever closer, with just one week to go, the men were getting as involved in the preparations as the ladies, focusing on tech and scene-setting scary movies.

If you’ve made a foray into Halloween retailing this year you’ve hopefully heeded the advice of Lorna Dunne, Head of Fashion Vertical at eBay, who says: ‘Retailers need to ensure they’re catering for the whole family, and not forgetting the last-minute shoppers by planning and stocking inventory to meet the waves of demand.’

Halloween costumes for women, men, babies, kids and adults all featured among the top 20 searches in the fancy dress category on ebay.co.uk between July and October last year, demonstrating the broad appeal of the event.

If you are selling dress-up items you may wish to check out the British Retail Consortium’s code of practice on flammability of costumes. This was drawn up following the BRC’s work with retailers, laboratories and safety experts after a serious accident on Halloween 2014: a girl was badly burned when the costume she was wearing became ignited by a candle.

Meanwhile, ChannelMum.com asks: ‘What kind of Halloween costumes did you wear when you were little – a cardboard witches hat and a bin bag cape maybe? What about a spooky ghost made from a sheet with the eyes cut out? Oh, the memories.’

In a video it then goes on to highlight what it describes as ‘The Nasty Nine Halloween Costumes’, along with the names of their suppliers.

ChannelMum says that what to dress up in for Halloween has now become a ‘little bit of a minefield if you’re a kid or a tween’ – with ‘some very inappropriate costumes’ available to buy this year. ‘Kids are now confronted with images that were once reserved for 18+ horror movies. Hands up if you’re craving a return to a more innocent, light-hearted Halloween this year?’

Well, that would be a start. But not as good as no Halloween at all!