Halloween: Is it a trick or treat for Australian retailers?

Halloween: Is it a trick or treat for Australian retailers?

Halloween may not be celebrated quite as heavily in Australia as it is in the US, but it is growing in popularity, and there are clear roll-on effects in the retail industry.

The holiday’s shift to mainstream culture has been slow in Australia, and it certainly hasn’t happened overnight. Over time it has become more culturally acceptable in our society as it has separated from its initial roots in pagan beliefs and become more of an Aussie excuse for a celebration.

Australian retailers have certainly responded to and likely even fuelled this holiday’s growing popularity. In the lead up to Halloween, grocery stores sell increased amounts of pumpkins and candies, retailers stock party paraphernalia and there are even short-lived pop-up stores dedicated purely to Halloween decorations. 

Over recent years Woolworths has extended its range of Halloween-themed products to cater for the increasing demand and Coles expected to sell more than 270 tonnes of pumpkins in the lead up to the event. Even craft retailer Spotlight reported a 100% increase on Halloween product sales between 2014 and 2015.

But it’s not just the usual retailer suspects that are getting involved; all sorts of shops jump on the bandwagon including jewellers who release limited edition Halloween charms and jewellery around the holiday. 

The presence of US retailers in Australia has also had an effect and now Pottery Barn Kids sells beautiful children’s costumes on their Australian website. Canadian retailer Halloween has opened four shops in Melbourne in its first international expansion and owner Richard Pierson has said "We've established ourselves as the one-stop shop for Halloween in Canada, and we were looking to expand, so Australia seemed like the obvious choice. We heard Melbourne likes to party, plus Australians have the sense of humour to go all out with their costumes."

For most retailers, Halloween is now an important event in the retail calendar. Australian Retailers Association Executive Director, Russell Zimmerman has said “Australian retailers seem to have found a lull in events between Easter and Christmas and have jumped on board.”

There seem to be two separate key demographics being targeted – the kids and parents around the trick or treating, and the adults who are throwing and attending parties.

From the kids’ perspective, trick or treating means dressing up in fun costumes. In Australia, the kids Halloween costumes tend to be skewed towards superheroes and princesses rather than scary characters that you commonly see in the US. For kids, Halloween is also all about candies, chocolates and lollies in every house, but let’s not forget that this also puts an added pressure in most households to stock up on some sweet goodies in case trick or treating children turn up on the doorstep.

In addition, Halloween in Australia is seen as an excuse for a party. Dress up parties are commonplace and some locations host events just to cater to the trend including Luna Park hosting a four-night Halloscream event in Sydney and Luna Dark over three nights in Melbourne.

Looking forward, although Australia celebrates Halloween in a different way to other countries, retailers still find ways to capitalise on the event, and will continue to do so increasingly over the coming years.

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