The Commercialism of Halloween

Posted on October 24, 2011

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By Angela Steed

In 2010 Tesco sold one and a half million costumes and Asda reported selling a witch costume every ten seconds in the days leading up to Halloween. In 2001 the British population spent £12 million on Halloween, last year this figure rose to £280 million despite the recession. Are we beginning to materialise Halloween?

I remember when Halloween used to be about helping my Mum make tablet for trick or treaters and making sure the pumpkin I carved was better than my brothers. We used bin bags as witch’s capes and dunked for apples in my Granny’s kitchen. Fast forward 10 years and Halloween is a very different experience.

Halloween was once an evening of children dressing up and telling ghost stories but are we now more concerned with out doing our
neighbours than we are with simply enjoying the holiday? You can barely move in the supermarket for toffee apples and pumpkins,
people often find themselves spending a small fortune on costumes, decorations and spooky themed food and drink.

Last year Britain spent £280 million on Halloween.

Michelle Harrison, director of market analysts at the Henley Centre described how: “The seven days before 31 October make up the
second busiest shopping week of the year.” This is unsurprising when you consider that Halloween is one of the most profitable calendar events for retailers in the year, beaten only by Christmas and Easter. Does this mean we’re set to follow America in the commercialisation of this holiday?
A YouGov questionnaire for Sainsbury’s showed that sixteen per cent of British people admit to switching off lights and turning the TV down to avoid trick or treaters, is there something wrong with our society when people find themselves hiding in their own homes? In America there is so much more focus put on Halloween compared to here in the UK, people spend weeks preparing for the holiday by ensuring they have the perfect costumes and sometimes even turning their homes into haunted houses. As a whole the US spent £3.7 billion on Halloween last year. Although we haven’t yet taken it to this extreme, we are steadily catching up.
The amount we spend on Halloween is something British businesses are taking note of and profiting from, for example Britain is now
the largest producer of pumpkins in Europe. In the 90’s the farmers at Oakley Farm in Cambridgeshire were growing ten thousand pumpkins a year but over the last decade this has number has now grown to 2.5 million. These pumpkins are supplied to mainly British supermarkets.

When you consider how much further we’ve taken Halloween in the past 10 years, I think that the way we remember Halloween as
children will soon be something almost incomprehensible to our own children as the Halloween they will know will instead a far more commercial American version of the holiday.

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Posted in: Opinion Pieces