Australia is scary business for retail

download-55Australians will spend scary amounts this Halloween as retailers cash in on the spooky celebration to drive spending in the soft-spot between the football finals and Christmas.

What was once considered a gauche American tradition is fast becoming an annual event for many Australian households and it’s not just kids taking advantage of the scary, pagan imagery to binge on sweet treats.

The rising popularity of Halloween is reflected in big sales increases at all the major retail chains, including craft and costume specialist Spotlight, which enjoyed a 100 per cent jump in Halloween sales last year alone

“Last year we doubled our sales and we are hoping to hit those numbers again this year … so it’s absolutely huge for us,” Spotlight Retail Group creative content manager Nick Casey said.

“We target two main demographics, the mums who are shopping for kids, as more and more kids are getting out there and the other customer is the hard core party planner and they go all out, getting everything from costumes to decorations and face paints.

“There’s something about Halloween that really resonates with our core do-it-yourself customer, who wants to make a really personal and exciting experience and Halloween allows them to think outside of the box.”

Mr Casey said Halloween sales were growing “exponentially” from year to year, driven in part by social media and the sharing of Halloween costume and decorating ideas from mature markets like the US and the UK.

Spotlight expects to sell 40,000 fake spider webs as well as more than 30,000 costumes for kids and adults in the lead up to the big night.

Coles supermarkets are preparing for one of their biggest Halloween seasons yet after watching demand for traditional favourite, the pumpkin treble in the past six years.

“This year we’re expecting to sell more than 270 tonnes of pumpkins in the lead up to October 31,” a Coles spokesman said.

The Wesfarmers-owned supermarket chain has doubled its range of Halloween merchandise, including costumes, decorations, party suppliers and trick or treat accessories and this year for the first time it’s introduced Halloween-themed baking accessories.

Target has already sold out of its creepy butler figure, an almost life-sized, and unnervingly life-like talking Halloween figure, and the chain’s general manager of hardgoods, Nick Chilcott said the pagan celebration was now an important event in the retail calendar.

“It’s definitely growing year on year,” Mr Chilcott said.

“It’s one of those events that started out with a kid focus but gradually it’s morphed into an opportunity for adults to dress up as well.”

Major events are now also part of the Halloween tradition, with Luna Park hosting a four-night Halloscream event  in Sydney and Luna Dark over three nights in Melbourne.

Retail analyst Brian Walker said research suggested one in five Australians planned to celebrate Halloween and he said Australia was developing its own, unique take on the festival.

“Australian kids are definitely more into super heroes or fairies and princesses than the scary characters you see in the US and I think it’s all about the treats here than the tricks.”

He said many communities hosted family-friendly events and street parties for Halloween and this was driving kids’ interest in the festival and a lot of the retail spending.

Woolworths experienced double-digit sales growth for its Halloween range last year and its discount department store Big W has expanded its range of costumes and wigs to meet rising demand from both kids and adults.

Woolies has already had its own Halloween scare after it was forced to recall its Halloween Ghost and Pumpkin LED spinning wands over concerns kids might gain access to the potentially dangerous button-cell batteries.