Walk into any supermarket and you cannot miss the halloween marketing in full swing. Neil Hudson asks how an innocent night of fun turned into a marketing monster.
It seems everyone is jumping on the Halloween bandwagon. There’s no escaping it. Walk into any supermarket and there are aisles of the stuff.
For parents it must be a living nightmare – the pressure to conform to the annual festival has never been greater.
Neither have the profits. Halloween, like Christmas, is big business.
Last year, according to Planet Retail, the UK Halloween market was worth an estimated £353m (up 12 per cent on 2011, which was up 19 per cent on the year before that).
The convenience food sector alone is worth £39.6m and growing at a rate of 8.7 per cent a year, according to Cloetta, which owns Chewits.
Go back just ten years and it was worth a paltry (by comparison) £12m.
According to some scholars, All Hallows’ Eve is a Christianised feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals and festivals of the dead with possible Pagan roots.
The modern incarnation that is Halloween (aka ‘trick or treat’ night) may have originated in the US but Halloween is now firmly established on the British calendar. This year the marketeers have left no stone unturned. Shops are selling everything from Halloween-themed kiddy sweets to naughty outfits.
Cadbury’s Scream Egg was a top seller in 2012 but this year you can take your pick from ‘trick or treat’ sweets (some taste like chocolate, others like tripe), zombie flamingoes, zombie shower gel and coloured contact lenses to make you look like you belong in your own horror movie.
But Hallowe’en is a gamble for retailers, the window for selling such products being relatively narrow.
And, of course, there are some other pitfalls – Asda and Tesco both pulled costume lines from their shelves this year following concerns (and complaints) they were in bad taste .
Emeritus Professor in sociology at Leeds Metropolitan University Dr Max Farrar said: “Like a lot of festivals it has very early roots and I think goes back to Pagan times but nowadays it’s almost a commercial rip-off in terms of the kinds of things which are being sold.
“In a way I think it’s a real shame because when my kids were young I remember making things for Halloween like costumes out of old bin liners and scooping out pumpkins to make ghoulish looking lanterns to put on the window ledge. “Today, however, it’s all available at the supermarket and I think a lot of people just don’t have the time to spend making their own and so they will go and buy it from the shelf.
“As a nation, we are very time poor.
“Certainly, anyone who is lucky enough to have a job these days is working their socks off, so you can’t blame them for that.”
“The nature of the modern festival has changed as parental behaviour has changed.
“I can recall my kids going out for the evening and we lived in Chapeltown but these days we’re all so safety conscious that the parents go round with the kids.”
Still, there’s no danger of Hallowe’en going away any time soon.
What may once have been a childhood-themed night looks set to be transformed ever more into a family-orientated festival to rival Easter and Christmas, a welcome stopping-off point for retailers exhausted by poor sales figures and a boost to the flagging economy.
Film franchises like Harry Potter and Twilight serve only to cement the noir themes in our general consciousness and in years to come we can only anticipate the festival will grow and the marketing will become more focused.
GHOULISH GOODIES TO MAKE YOU GO ‘UGH!’
Halloween has come a long way since the days of home-made costumes - these days, there are countless hi-tech gadgets on the market, such as...
Zombie Gnomes: from £14.95 see red5.co.uk.
These chaps retain some of their classic gnome-like attributes; being vertically challenged, sporting a beard and the red hat/blue suit combo. But that’s where the similarities end, and there are few remnants of their usual jolly demeanour. They will certainly add plenty of personality to any outdoor space, though perhaps not the kind you’d like to meet on a dark night.
Human snot and brain jam: £6.99 each from firebox.com.
These two jars might be amongst the priciest of preserves, but we like them a lot. There’s raspberry jam touting itself as brain jam and lemon curd claiming that it is that most disgusting of nasal nastiness. It is not big, it’s not clever - but it will bring out a childish smile.
Crypt of Terror: £19.99 from character-online.com.
Here’s one of the fully licensed sets from the new Character Building range of popular digital pastime Monsters versus Zombies.
The crypt features a mini Baron Samedi and Zombie Bride.
Let the kids create their own terrifying stories, while you watch on with envy...
Ghost Hunt Game: £30 from hawkin.com.
Place the skull-based character at the centre of a darkened room, set him off shining images of ghosts around your ceiling and walls, then grab your mini-gun and start shooting. Each time you hit a ghoul, it’ll register, then as you improve the settings can be altered for faster delivery and more rapid movement. A real blast.
Beating heart outfits: £34.95 from morphsuits.co.uk.
Part of a new range of costumes from the mighty fine Morphsuits group, these interactive outfits will certainly get you noticed. Stick one on, download an iOS or Android app onto your handset, flick the screen to swap the image to spiders, maggots or snakes.