Is Halloween Dead and Buried?
According to IRI, Halloween goods in the supermarkets fell 3.1% on volumes down 4.3% in 2016 (IRI via the Grocer), indicating a potential decline in the popularity of the holiday. Sales of seasonal Halloween confectionery and cakes have fallen by a fifth, as have regular confectionery and home-baking items. All of this is despite six top brands ramping up their marketing through featured space deals – so it isn’t for want of the market trying.
Halloween itself has origins dating back over 2,000 years – and although the word itself is of a Christian origin coming from a word meaning ‘Holy evening’, the festival itself is believed to have pagan roots in Celtic harvest festivals.
This is contested by some, who support the view that Halloween began independently as a solely Christian holiday. In some parts of the world, Christian religious observances remain popular, although over the last 60 years the festival has become increasingly commercialised and although not an official holiday, it is viewed by many as a major event in the year.
The most popular Halloween traditions involve dressing up in scary costumes, ‘trick-or-treating’, and throwing fancy dress parties.
Until the last decade or so, the popularity of the holiday appeared to be gaining speed, becoming heavily commercialised in the US before the UK and Europe caught up. So why is it that Halloween-related FMCG sales appear to be dropping, and does this mean Halloween has had its day?
Trick-or-treating, the most popular Halloween related activity among children has certainly seen its popularity waning – and is perhaps the largest single trigger behind the decline faced by Halloween confectionery specifically. This is by no means the fault of anyone within the industry, but rather more down to safety scares and concerns surrounding children (particularly when unaccompanied) knocking on the doors of strangers, and an increased hesitance by homeowners to give out sweets and treats.
This alone doesn’t necessarily mean Halloween has had it – consumers could instead be turning to alternative ways of celebrating the holiday – but certainly has had a marked effect on sales. Of course it isn’t just Halloween confectionery waning in popularity. The decline in the confectionery and cakes market on the whole certainly hasn’t happened as a direct result of less trick-or-treaters – but rather the market’s key ingredient, sugar.
The war on sugar has been gaining momentum since 2015, and every week sees thousands of people either quitting the substance for good, or at least taking steps to reduce it. With many of trick-or-treating age associating the holiday with sugary goodness, yet their parents taking steps to reduce the sugar consumption of their children, this spells further trouble for Halloween.
Of course, the bleak statistics here surrounding Halloween don’t present the whole picture, and focus solely on FMCG. Despite the decline in Halloween sales, analysts and industry professionals present the future as far from gloomy. True, trick-or-treating is in decline, and the demise of the sugar industry has taken plenty with it, but there is more to Halloween.
The Grocer point out how Halloween is becoming an adult affair – less about children, which is growing sales in other related areas such as costumes and ‘grown-up’ party goods. Although households with children do still account for 72% of Halloween spend, both adult-friendly and universal Halloween goods such as alcohol and pumpkins are on the rise. In addition, many forecast the combination of three autumn festivals – Halloween, Bonfire night and the Mexican Day of the Dead as the future – signalling a new era for the celebration.
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