The power of pumpkin: Cosmetics retailer Lush sees race for Halloween range as social media drives spooky spending

Social media is driving Australia’s obsession with Halloween products, and retailers like Lush are selling out entire ranges of themed goods as shoppers rush to collect limited edition products.

The cosmetics retailer released a limited line of products for October, including a pumpkin bubble bar, but customers took to Facebook over the weekend to lament that stores are reportedly running out of stock. Some say they were told shops ran out of products just one day after they went on sale.

The company’s social media team were quick to commiserate, but said some lines were gone for good after strong demand. “Unfortunately the pumpkin patch is looking pretty bare,” one team member said. SmartCompany contacted Lush for an update on stock levels, but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Halloween sales in the US will hit an all-time high of $US8.4 billion ($11 billion) in 2016, according to the National Retail Federation – that’s over $US80 per US citizen according to those surveyed. While the Australian market has traditionally been divided into enthusiasts and those who object to adopting the American cultural celebration, local retailers are increasingly jumping on the bandwagon, with business owners tell SmartCompany they are seeing serious sales spikes.

Costumes.com.au co-founder Nathan Huppatz says he has seen customer numbers increase for Halloween goods each year since starting his business started seven years ago – and in the past two years, interest for Halloween costumes has doubled.

“This year there are particular brands we’ve seen trending up – for example, Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad. Also clowns – hopefully used for good, not evil,” he says.

Read more: How Nathan Huppatz was first to the party with Costumes.com.au

The business has 30,000 Facebook fans and over the past two years interaction on social media has propelled interest in products in the lead-up to Halloween, with Huppatz observing that local retailers and shopping centres are increasingly putting on themed events, which is further driving interest.

Shoppers are also increasingly getting costume inspiration from across the globe, including a local obsession with buying masks of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Trump is outselling Clinton 3:1, reports Huppatz.

A major change is that shoppers are now on the lookout for more intricate set ups and are willing to pay for extras.

“People are spending more on props and decor, animated props and decorations,” says Huppatz.

The desperation for pumpkin-scented items at Lush indicates that customers are not just after costumes, but homewares too – and other consumer goods retailers are taking note.

Premier Investments’ sleepwear brand Peter Alexander has its “Spooktacular” pyjama ranges on sale, while Cotton On Group-owned stationery store Typo is cashing in with mugs and “zombie survival kits”.

Discount department stores like Big W have also worked their way into party goods and kids costumes, while Toys R Us has spooky set pieces on offer, including a “tinsel tombstone plaque” for decorating the family home.

But this trend is not new; the local retail scene has cottoned onto the popularity of the holiday over the past five years and product lines have matured in line with that enthusiasm.

Even the supermarkets have seen an uptick in sales, with Coles telling Fairfax this week the supermarket giant expects to sell 270 tonnes of pumpkins in the lead up to next Monday’s celebration.

While the interest has been there for some years, what seems to be changing is the feverish enthusiasm for limited edition products across the board. Business owners are encountering customers willing to spend more on spooky products – for the whole family.

“We’ve even been selling a lot more pet costumes,” says Huppatz, with customers keener than ever to dress their dogs as a Ghostbuster or Ewok.

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