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Halloween brings £315 m boost to retailers

A boom in popularity of spooky costumes and eerie ephemera has seen UK sales for Halloween rise 12.5% this year.

A retail analyst firm estimate £315m will be spent this Halloween, compared with just £12m a decade ago.

The festival is now the third-most significant event in the retail calendar, after Christmas and Easter, and is now bigger than Valentine’s Day.

Much of its popularity can be attributed to the influence of popular occult television shows and films such as Twilight, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries and the Harry Potter films.

But the co-founder of the parents’ messaging forum Mumsnet was less enthusiastic about the festivities, labelled it an “excuse to sell overpriced tat that will inevitably be landfill fodder.”

Asda has an estimated 50% market share of Halloween retail sales in the UK and expects to sell more than one million pumpkins this year.

Lisa Byfield-Green, retail analyst at Planet Retail, said: “I think it’s one of these celebrations which people tend to do at home and it doesn’t cost very much – and it’s a lot of fun. It does brighten up an otherwise dull season.

“The biggest spend is on confectionery, the second biggest is pumpkins and then it’s party food and costumes.”

However, Justine Roberts, co-founder of Mumsnet, said: “It’s fair to say that for many parents Halloween is an endurance rather than the fun it’s cracked up to be.

“We’ve gone way beyond the traditions of our childhood – sheets with holes cut out, apple bobbing, pumpkin carving – to an excuse to sell overpriced tat that will inevitably be landfill fodder.

“Coupled with the trick or treating sugar fest, it’s not surprising that around three-quarters of Mumsnetters would rather call the whole Halloween thing off.”

Henry Enos, consumer behaviour specialist at the University of Glamorgan, said Halloween had been “commercially exploited to a great effect.”

He said: “There used to be a more classic seasonal calendar. After Christmas, the next major moment would be Valentine’s Day, then classically Easter, then the long haul of summer. Halloween fits perfectly between summer and the major retail season at Christmas.

“Although Halloween is part of an ancient culture – the Celtic tradition of Samhain – the commercial part of it has been adapted from the American concept.

“Traditionally we would whittle a turnip in the UK and this has been developed with the American pumpkin, which is part of their national dish. We used to do bobbing apples, we didn’t used to dress up in formal costumes, you would just create one out of sheets.”

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