Business development · 20 September 2016

Why it’s never too early for small businesses to plan for Halloween

Halloween is becoming increasingly popular in the UK
Halloween is becoming increasingly popular in the UK

Depending on who you ask, Autumn officially starts on either 1 or 22 September – but whichever date you choose, the fact is Autumn will be in full swing by the end of this week and the shops will be selling pumpkin spice flavour everything.

Because of this, I was not in the least bit surprised to notice the first Halloween sweeties making their appearance on the shelves in my local supermarket this week. Sure, there’s over a month left to go – but Halloween, like all holidays, seems to encroach upon us earlier and earlier every year.

Personally, I’m all for it. I love Halloween and I’ve already started planning for Christmas – but I’m aware many people, the majority my social circle included, find this bleeding of holiday seasons into everyday life to be annoying at best and a consumerist nightmare at worst.

Unfortunately, no matter how peeved by it you may be, if you are a small business chances are there is some way you can cash in on holidays such as Halloween. In this case, can it ever be too early to start planning? What’s more, the UK’s interest in Halloween and other autumn events is on the up.

In 2001 the total spend on Halloween in the UK was estimated at around £12m, whereas in 2014 is was estimated at anywhere between £230-£443m (according to surveys by Mintel and Webloyalty/Conlumino respectively). While it may be difficult to pinpoint the true figures, one thing is clear – the general trend is toward growth.

According to retail analyst at Mintel, Alice Goody: “The value of autumn events rose by an estimated 5.8 per cent in 2015, driven by increased spend on Halloween among young families and Millennials, and continued high purchasing levels for back-to-school.

“Overshadowed by these events and the Christmas build-up, the retail boost from Bonfire Night is relatively small. The supermarkets dominate these events, yet competition is mounting from the discounters and pure plays.”

The best ways to make the most of the spooky season will vary depending on your business, and it will effect some businesses more than others. For example, if you run a fancy dress shop, you should probably have already started making preparations. If you run a sweet shop, now would be a good time to start stocking up on themed treats. But even if there’s not such a clear link, there might still be a way to get involved.

Advice from finance provider Merchant Money includes: decorating either your website or physical stores, offering discounts, partnering with other businesses with a more direct link to Halloween, adding Halloween-themed gifts to your product offering, and running or sponsoring a Halloween contest, such as a quiz or best-dressed competition.

Finally, just be sure to do your research on consumer spending habits. Take a look at these facts and figures on Brit’s Halloween spending habits from market research firms Verdict and Statista:

  • £33 is the average amount spent on Halloween by UK shoppers
  • 29 per cent of UK consumers plan to buy Halloween-related retail goods
  • 44 per cent of UK adults with children will buy Halloween retail goods
  • Just 19 per cent of UK shoppers without children will buy Halloween retail goods
  • 52 per cent of UK Halloween shoppers plan to be prepared for trick or treaters by spending on sweets
  • 55 per cent of UK shoppers plan to buy fancy dress costumes.

And that’s just for the UK – if you export to the US Halloween is an even bigger cash cow. Around 94 per cent of Americans will purchase Halloween candy, and 70 per cent will dress up. So if you think it’s too early to start planning for Autumn holidays, you may want to think again!

Already thinking beyond Halloween? Find out how one small business hoped to deliver a merry Christmas to UK’s shoppers.

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Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Business Advice. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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