Typically recognised as one of the most lucrative seasonal holidays, Halloween can be a significant money-making period for businesses, especially retailers stocking confectionary, cosmetics, and costumes. However, more and more often as we walk the aisles of major supermarkets and franchises, there seems to be an earlier, stronger focus on Christmas rather than the spooky season.
So, have large retailers pulled away from Halloween items? Will small businesses follow suit? And has this potential change in attitudes towards Halloween-themed stock been brought on by the pandemic?
Halloween 2020 was a sales disaster for UK businesses as the holiday was effectively cancelled nationwide in the height of lockdown. Business owners may still feel jaded by the loss. The investment in Halloween displays, marketing, and stock is risky business; unlike Easter or Christmas, the public dedication to celebrating Halloween is difficult to predict and the pandemic has only made this harder. It is hard to judge how many families with young children, the main demographic for this seasonal celebration, will be participating, especially as COVID-19 vaccination has not been widely administered to children under 12. So, for businesses to spend the money in creating and stocking Halloween items and taking the time to market the products, the profit margin seems to be smaller than ever.
Another issue that may have contributed to the apparent lack of corporate enthusiasm for Halloween is the supply chain issues across the country. With plenty of warnings about the struggle to get Christmas turkeys this year, the Halloween merchandise may have been abandoned in favour of ensuring the Christmas stock arrives in time. With big and small businesses alike no doubt pinning big hopes for the festive period to bring in some much-needed revenue, the small spooky holiday has been left by the wayside. Christmas has always been the top spending period for shoppers and is a reliable holiday for retail sales, with reportedly 97% of Brits celebrating Christmas every year. The average spending for a British adult at Christmas last year was £476, according to Finder.
However, SMEs and independent freelancers may not have given up on Halloween yet. Small creators that sell products and creations on Etsy seem to have upheld Halloween as a key sales opportunity, with over 2 million items listed under ‘Halloween’. As millennial and Gen Z shoppers tend to prioritise ‘buying small’ and sustainability in the wake of the pandemic, sellers on sites like Etsy can move more swiftly in comparison to large franchises, producing Halloween-themed stock relatively quickly and to manageable quantities, allowing them to profit from the spooky holiday without the large risk of having leftover to unsold stock, especially as many of the sellers tend to make their wares to order.
So, will UK retailers focus on Halloween again in the future?
This year, there are a lot of adversities to investing in Halloween merchandise and marketing the spooky season. With many children remaining unvaccinated against COVID-19, warnings about winter spikes in the virus, and supply chain issues, the potential revenue of Halloween most likely did not outweigh the risk of spending fruitlessly on the shorter holiday. Focusing on Christmas ultimately places retailer in a more advantageous position to recoup the losses caused by the pandemics and lockdowns. However, it does not mean that Halloween will not make a splash in coming years, as the world settles back into the new sense of normal.