Halloween is big business in the UK. According to retail intelligence firm Planet Retail, sales rose 12.5% last year to reach £315m. Retail analyst Lisa Byfield-Green says the occasion has continued to grow consistently since Planet Retail began tracking figures in 2001.

"This has been driven by a growing US influence and the welcome escapism and opportunity that it gives families and groups of friends to come together and celebrate before the start of the Christmas season.

"The US ownership (by Walmart) of supermarket chain Asda has also contributed to growth. We estimate that Asda has the largest share of the UK Halloween market (around 50%) and the broadest range of products of any retailer to our knowledge. Asda also teams up with brand manufacturers to sell exclusive themed goods, such as Hula-ween crisps (Hula Hoops) and Boney Fingers (Cadbury) last year."

But you don’t have to be an ’Asda’ to cash in on Halloween. Byfield Green says top selling items are typically confectionery, decorations, food and costumes. "The majority of Halloween spending tends to happen in the week leading up to it, so I should think forecourt retailers are in a good position to benefit from impulse buys and last-minute purchases. Confectionery, decorations and snacks would be likely sellers possibly masks or decorations, depending on space."

Trick or treating is the big activity on October 31 where, depending on your opinion, cute or annoying youngsters knock on doors offering householders the choice of a trick or treat. Only the bravest (or most foolhardy) would choose a ’trick’, so treating is most popular. And it’s quite amazing how much people are willing to spend on stocking up on treats. According to a survey by Asda (of course!), last year Belfast was the most generous ’treat’ city, where households were planning to spend £22.20 each on Halloween treats. Londoners were less generous, only planning to spend £11.36 per household.

Of course, there’s plenty for households to spend their money on. Kraft Foods offers multiple solutions for trick-or-treat shoppers with treatsize packs of key favourites, such as Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel and Cadbury Crunchie, as well as the bespoke Halloween product, Cadbury Trick-or-Treatsize Tub.

But, according to Nielsen data, growth in the Halloween category last year was driven by self-eat products. Kraft Foods’ Cadbury Screme Egg was responsible for the majority of the uplift, growing by £1.5m to become the top-selling Halloween product.

For this Halloween, Kraft Foods has improved the Screme Egg, making its ’goo-lish’ green fondant centre even more garish. The company advises retailers to use it to signpost the season in store.

It is also hoping to attract new shoppers to the self-eat category with Cadbury Crunchy Spiders Cadbury chocolate, filled with green crunchy bits and wrapped in foil featuring two spooky spider character designs and creepy crawly legs.

Dual display solutions are available so that retailers can merchandise Cadbury Screme Egg and Cadbury Crunchy Spiders together, to help drive impulse sales. A new 150g sharing bag of Cadbury Screme Egg Minis is also available as well as a Cadbury Dead Heads 150g bag, increased from 80g last year, to make it more suitable for the party/sharing occasion.

Amy Beresford, brand manager for Halloween at Kraft Foods, comments: "Halloween represents a great opportunity for retailers to really have some fun in store with spooky decorations and dedicated displays really helping encourage shoppers to buy into the season."

Lisa Sullivan, brand manager at Tangerine Confectionery agrees. She reckons that if shoppers see that a retailer has gone that extra mile to make their experience more enjoyable and related to the occasion, they are more likely to return for other seasonal events.

"Store owners should continue the Halloween theme throughout the store with in-store decorations, product displays and even eerie music to catch shoppers’ attention. We would encourage retailers to create in-store displays in order to maximise the profit opportunity that seasonal events offer."

For those who prefer sugar confectionery, The Natural Confectionery Company’s (TNCC’s) Spooky Treats jelly sweets is a top seller while the brand’s super sour Cauldron’s Mix is particularly popular with teens and young adults. And Leaf offers Vampire Fangs fruit flavour jelly sweets which retail at £1.

Meanwhile, Swizzels Matlow says it saw sales of its Bumper Bags grow by 28% and Lots of Lollies by 33% over the Halloween period last year.

This year, its range includes special treat bags and tubs of favourites including Love Hearts, Drumsticks, Fizzers, New Refreshers and Fruity Pops. There are also big bags and tubs of treats for party goers or families to share, including Trick or Treat Lolly Mix, Monster Treats and Spooky Treat or Trick Mix.

Mega Drumsticks have a black and orange wrapper, while Double Dip becomes Spooky Dip, with a blackcurrant flavour that leaves tongues black!

For this year, Tangerine Confectionery has given its Barratt’s Freaky Body Parts a makeover. The product now offers a new and improved mix of fruit flavoured gums in the shapes of brains, feet, teeth, skeletons and skulls as well as a vanilla flavoured foam bone.

Creepy crumbs

Dean Lavender, brand manager for seasonal cake at Premier Foods, says the Halloween cake market is still only half the size of Easter so there’s plenty of room for further growth.

"The one lesson that we should take from the US where Halloween is massive, is ’embrace the event’.

"Seasonal events are growing year-on-year and the grocery multiples recognise the importance of these events and are creating in-store displays. We are urging independent retailers to do the same in order to maximise the profit opportunity seasonal events offer."

For this year, Premier has introduced new designs for its products, which include Fiendish Fancies and Spooky Strawberry Cake Bars (where the filling is green but tastes of strawberries). There is also a new party line the Frankenstein’s Monster Fancy.

Over at the McVitie’s Cake Company (MCC) there are new McVitie’s Spooky Sour Cake Bars purple sponge topped with a sour blackcurrant jam, covered in dark chocolate. The new variant joins McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes Spooky Cake Bars and McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes Lemon & Slime Cake Bars. To further entice consumers, MCC is running an on-pack promotion across these seasonal products. The promotion offers consumers ’2 for 1’ entry to Alton Towers, when accompanied by one full-paying adult.

Retailer View

David Cox, Saintfield Road Service Station, Lisburn, Co Antrim:

"Halloween is a good excuse for us to brighten up the store. We can get extra sales but we have to work for them. We are a neighbourhood store so we have a better chance of cashing in on Halloween than, say, motorway site.

"Last year Coke supplied a Halloween Party box and they merchandised their fixtures with Halloween point-of-sale. Suppliers provide stickers for the floors and windows and a lot of bigger brands have merchandisers who dress their fixtures/stands.

"We stocked a range of nuts (mainly monkey nuts) and toffee apples. This year they were on a pre-sale deal.

"We bring in extra trick-or-treat sweets multipacks of Haribo and fun packs of Mars as well as kids’ party multipacks of crisps and drinks. These type of products work well as it is also half term.

"In 2010 we ordered a pallet of pumpkins which we sold at £4 each. Last year they were on sale in Tesco for ’2 for £3’. We couldn’t get near that price so we didn’t bring any in."