Supermarkets reap Halloween rewards

Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths are reporting increased sales of costumes, lollies and pumpkins in the lead up to Halloween. Despite essentially being an American holiday, Australians appear to be embracing the spooky antics celebrated on 31 October.

It’s not just the supermarkets which are seeing a boost in sales on the approach to Halloween. The only Australian supplier of the easier-to-carve Jack O’Lantern pumpkins is expecting to sell around 100,000 this year.  There’s even a pumpkin-flavoured beer for those too old to go trick or treating.

All the money spent by Australians this year will pale into insignificance when compared to the $8 billion spent by Americans each year, however, the holiday is fast becoming a firm favourite with retailers.

McCrindle Research shows that Halloween is heavily skewed towards the youth market with 53 per cent of Gen Ys celebrating the holiday over recent years, compared with 40 per cent of mature Australians.

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Opinion: Yet another holiday Americanised

Halloween is fast becoming an important holiday in Australia, especially for retailers. Recent figures show Coles and Woolworths posting an increase in sales of up to 30 per cent across ranges which are relevant to the spooky celebrations.

So what makes this quintessential American holiday so appealing to Australians? For years we have watched scary movies and television shows from the US which have portrayed the fun of Halloween, everyone dressing up and collecting ‘candy’ from friendly neighbours. It’s hardly surprising that the idea of Halloween has caught on, but what is surprising is that it has taken so long to do so.

I grew up in Scotland where Halloween was a big event, even 30 years ago. I always believed it to be a celebration of All Hallows’ Eve, where you dressed up to scare away the evil spirits and witches who were preparing to celebrate All Hallows’ Day. Indeed, it is believed that the holiday is thought to have pagan roots, with strong Gaelic influences. Yes, we did knock on neighbours doors, bag in hand, looking for a reward, however, we were expected to ‘earn’ our treat. A song, joke or little dance was called for before you were handed an apple, tangerine or some monkey nuts! If you were given any sweets, then you couldn’t believe your luck. It was as much about dressing up and providing entertainment for the neighbourhood as it was about getting treats. There was certainly no ‘tricking’ going on.

The Americans have taken a different approach to this holiday, with the whole event being over the top, centred around parties and ‘trick or treating’. It has become just another commercial opportunity for retailers. As with Easter, Valentines Day and Christmas, it’s all about spending money to have fun, rather than celebrating the true meaning of such events.

Personally, I can’t be bothered with strangers knocking on my door, disturbing my evening and ‘demanding’ a treat, just because they made a token effort to dress up. I would however, be more than happy to switch of my television for the evening and be entertained by my spooky guests. Although I can’t imagine they’d be too pleased when I dropped an apple and some nuts in their bags as a ‘reward’.

Do you see the fun in Halloween or should Americans keep their holiday commercialisation to themselves?

Written by Debbie McTaggart