Retailers should only promote Halloween if there is a natural invitation from their customers, an expert says, after a retail body revealed figures highlighting the rise of Halloween in Australia.
Brian Walker, managing director of The Retail Doctor Group, says retailers are always looking for events to mark the calendar, and Halloween is becoming an increasingly popular one.
“[However,] it’s always the consumer that leads these things. It’s always the consumer who says, ‘This is what we want’,” Walker says.
Walker’s comments come after the Australian National Retailers Association said supermarkets are expecting a 25-30% growth in sales this year for Halloween, driven by increased demand for confectionary and dress-up costumes.
According to ANRA chief executive Margy Osmond, Halloween is no longer just an American event, insisting Australians “love the idea of the day”.
“It seems this is a holiday that more Australians enjoy and we expect it to continue to grow,” Osmond said.
Walker says while he doesn’t disagree supermarket sales will increase, he suspects the growth is “coming off a very low base”, thus urging retailers to tread with caution.
“This has to have a natural invitation to participate. It can’t be too contrived,” he says.
“Natural invitations would include confectionary businesses, clothing businesses that do novelty clothing, books and toy shops.”
“When it’s done particularly well is when they cross-promote with other retailers who are non-competing.”
According to Dr Stephen Alomes, adjunct professor at the Globalism Research Centre at RMIT University, Halloween in Australia is nothing more than an artificial construction.
Alomes describes Halloween as “a conspiracy between chocolate companies, $2 shops, supermarkets and adolescent party organisers”.
In Australian and elsewhere, it appeals to adolescents looking for “any excuse for a party” or for dressing up, Alomes says.
But Walker says Halloween is fast-becoming a regular feature on the calendar as consumers become more exposed to it, insisting retailers need to get on board.
“It’s all part of the promotional calendar now. The whole ambition here is to have a series of events and series of happenings you start to bring out,” he says.
“You should have something that draws consumers to you, and definitely campaigns play a part.”