The Scare Factor: the best and worst Halloween window and store displays of 2013

Happy Halloween everyone! Here, Nick Gray, managing director at retail marketing specialist agency Live & Breathe offer his views on the in-store work being done by some of the UK's biggest retailers and etailers.

Big Halloween celebrations US-style are a growing trend in the UK. We know that for a fact. Our recent research survey of 2,000 UK adults highlighted that six out of ten consumers (59 per cent) and over three-quarters (77 per cent) of 18-24 year-olds now celebrate the traditionally US event.

However, only one in ten Brits (10 per cent) said they have a local shop that they consider a good source of Halloween items. Not unsurprisingly, 21 per cent of UK shoppers buy their Halloween-themed items from their local supermarket.

At Live & Breathe we’ve been keeping an eye on UK retailers’ adoption of Halloween-themed window displays for the past few years, even taking a trip to the Big Apple to see how our US retailers embrace the event. What we found was that we Brits’ efforts are seriously lacking by comparison. Regardless of what they were selling, these NYC retailers seemed to find a way of bringing a Halloween theme to their store.

Halloween is a great way to bridge that gap between summer and the festive season and there is clearly an appetite among UK shoppers to make more of the event when they’re out shopping. With this in mind, shouldn’t our retailers be trying just that little bit harder to draw them in?

We’ve scoured the capital and digital world for noteworthy examples of great Halloween windows and online campaigns, and here’s what we found.

Morrisons

Morrisons has developed a new set of characters for 2013, finding a balance between the scare and fun factor. Floor stickers bring the characters to life who appear to be breaking through the floor. Hanging signs show seasonal aisles, while the Halloween slogan, “It’s Halloween, we’re here”, both marks the arrival of the new gang, and act as a call to action – we have the products to cater to your Halloween needs.

ASDA

The Halloween display in ASDA stores has vastly improved over the past couple of years. Vibrant fittings and displays are taken to the ceiling to create self-contained dedicated Halloween areas, which the grocer has dubbed ‘The Big Shop of Horrors’. 3D cardboard candles and floor games create a pathway ensuring parents and kids make it the full way along the aisle. Characters are colourful, keeping creative fun and child-friendly. ASDA keeps Halloween a light-hearted occasion, creating a reason for shoppers to prolong their visit.

Sainsbury’s

Usually lacking in its Halloween offering, Sainsbury’s has worked hard to assure shoppers it is a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all their 2013 Halloween needs. Passing through skeleton- themed security shrouds, shoppers are directed round the store via colourful signage while aisle units, ceiling hangers and POS landmark Halloween-themed areas. This is supplemented by dump bins with pumpkins and JS branded tea lights. Creative is clearly targeted at children while the competitive prices marked by large bold POS will appeal to parents. This display doesn’t provide the entertainment factor of rival ASDA, but it’s an eye-catching display.

Waitrose

Our third grocery example is Waitrose – there’s not much to say other than disappointing. If anything, this year’s efforts are down on last year. What’s confusing is that the grocer has placed Christmas products next to its Halloween lines. The messaging is confused and the limp lifeless ceiling hangers are less than inspiring.

Whole Foods Market

It might be an American brand, but Whole Foods Market UK doesn’t always embrace Halloween quite like its sister. At the Piccadilly Store, decoration is restricted to the exterior and kept to a bare minimum. However its exterior pumpkin display is tastefully artistic and encourages a call to action via social media, encouraging shoppers to tweet their pumpkin designs.

High Street - Top Shop

The fashion category has really embraced Halloween this year. After London Fashion Week, laser-cut leather, gothic lace and crazy knits were all the rage with High Street retailers. This inspiration has now made its way into Halloween displays online and off, with fashion retailers using the occasion to inspire customers to shop dedicated seasonal-inspired collections. On the high street Top Shop is a clear leader. The retailer never seems to disappoint in inspiring and gearing its shoppers up for seasonal events, this year dedicating a full window at its Oxford Street flagship store to the occasion. Mannequins are dressed top-to-toe with cool hair styles, dark lace, leathers and knitwear. Finished off with a strobe lighting display, Halloween stickers and 50s American horror movie inspired typography, the window is a real head-turner. However the spook-tacular display starts and ends with the windows. Admittedly, the Oxford Street store is huge and it would take a sturdy investment from the retailer to take the Halloween experience instore, but it highlights the ongoing non-committal attitude of UK retailers who don’t make as much of the in-store experience as they could to keep shoppers voting with their feet.

Pull&Bear

Young fashion brand Pull&Bear has taken a simple and stylish effect approach to its seasonal window display. An effective backdrop, dimmed lighting and made-over mannequins bring a dark and mysterious look to the store’s windows proving to other retailers that it doesn’t take big-bucks to do Halloween successfully.

Selfridges

Selfridges is known for its tasteful and eye-catching displays from windows to in-store. Targeting childrenswear, the retailer has taken pre-existing autumn and winter mannequin displays and built around them with twigs or cardboard haunts, fake cobwebs, oversized spiders and child-friendly monster masks. Mini spiders hang from the ceiling to add a further hint of spookiness. Although the retailer hasn’t gone all out, it has stayed true to its dress style, creating a product-focused display that stands out on the shop floor. .

Etailers

There has been a significant increase in Halloween-themed ecommerce sites this year, particularly in the form of e-shots from some the UK’s most popular fashion brands. Fashion etailers have used Halloween as inspiration to create dedicated Halloween look books and collections. Misguided’s ‘Creep it Real’ brings a fashionable-spin to the occasion. As does SpoiledBrat and ASOS

Spoiled Brat

Brands - MAC

Retailers aren’t the only ones to have got in the Halloween spirit this year. A number of brands have taken to creating occasion-specific products, or simply using the event as opportunity to demonstrate how their products can be used for Halloween. MAC is a great example of the latter. On its website, it has a range of striking shots to advertise a new makeup range by special-effects artist Rick Baker, who has created three Halloween looks; Bride, Day of Dead and Zombie. The photos are incredibly eye-catching and demonstrate clearly the potential of MAC products. Our audit has revealed a few surprise findings. New categories are releasing product variants especially for Halloween which they haven’t done before. Etailers are also making more of their virtual glass windows, even using them to supplement new collections.The grocers, though not all, have taken Halloween bigger for 2013, driven by the sparse events calendar.It’s unlikely that the UK will ever go all-out like our American cousins. It’s just not a part of our retail DNA in the same way. However there has been a positive development in UK retail and a significant nod by UK retailers and brands towards recognising Halloween as a valuable retail event.

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