Halloween has become a key battleground for major UK supermarkets.
While there are a plethora of independent stores participating in the spooky festivities – limited to just window decorations or small product novelties in-store – it is in the nation’s supermarkets where there are lots of treats to be found.
Unsurprisingly given the money shoppers now spend annually on celebrating Halloween, this is a seasonal event that has become fiercely, even ghoulishly, competitive given its strong associations with the family shop – each of the big supermarket retailers keen to provide a one-stop Halloween shop along with your regular weekly top up. And this year, in a piece of scary good fortune for the big grocery retailers, Halloween on October 31st falls towards the weekend.
As a result, the major supermarkets have all been participating strongly in the Halloween build up, with a greater-than-ever volume of product connectivity across all major departments: fresh foods, bakery and of course gift stationery and toys. As well as the obligatory range of dress up costumes, face paints, false wigs, masks, broomsticks and crooked hats.
It goes without saying that all of the big grocers have pumpkins at the start of their shopping experience and located throughout stores in big cardboard outers. But beyond that, what visual merchandising tricks and treats can be found at UK supermarkets this October? We hit the road to check out what lies in-store.
Given the brand’s strong associations with its US parent company, Walmart, Halloween is a big deal in Asda, with the strongest participation of all UK supermarkets in-store. For many years, it has aimed to be the biggest Halloween retailer in the UK and this year is no exception in terms of its overall presence.
The space given over to Halloween in-store is generous, taking up a prominent front-of-store position and both sides of the promotional aisle in most stores. This facilitates a complete destination shop-in-shop with bunting arranged across the aisles to create a spooky cave affect. The visual merchandising is topped off with a centrepiece card chandelier, skeletons, sinister pumpkins and all kinds of creepy characters.
Children’s pocket money (and their parent’s hard earned cash) can and undoubtedly will be quickly frittered away on the retailer’s special range of Halloween novelties. But it doesn’t end there. All product categories across the store are strongly represented – from George clothing to its in-store bakery, and all manner of other goods for an evening of spooky celebrations. Confectionary as you would expect is massive in store with colourful candy multipacks to satisfy those trick-or-treaters.
The Asda POS is much more adult in the look and feel of its execution, and is actually quite dark and sinister. Of all the supermarkets, it has the most daemonic look, featuring purple, slime green and black more prominently. You can only imagine the fun that has been had putting this together, and likely for months ahead…
Halloween is much bigger in Sainsbury’s than in previous years. That said, compared to Asda, it is still considerably more restrained in scale, style and tone. The POS takes on a fairground spooky messaging style, with flying bats and creepy spiders completing the look. It certainly succeeds in delivering a fun feel-good look. While visual merchandising may be limited, the overall retail execution is highly competent using cardboard POS headers and hanging elements. Shops with Tu clothing have gone the extra mile, with special end of aisle features integrating fancy dress, toys, and novelty goods. It’s a bolder execution for Sainsbury’s and done to good effect.
Like Asda, Tesco has dedicated a large amount of front-of-store seasonal promotional space to Halloween. Here though it lacks the overall scale and ‘punch’ of Asda or the quality of execution from Sainsbury’s. Though it is still competently done. For 2019, the retailer has clearly made more of a concerted effort to bring this important in-store event to life by introducing a pumpkin banner light Garland crossing the aisle. The product assortment is similar in range and size to that of Sainsbury’s, with confectionery, bakery, pumpkins and lots and lots of novelty goods on offer.
Marks & Spencer
The execution of Halloween within Marks & Spencer is limited to its food offer. Clearly, the retailer is focused on attracting those shoppers planning to host Halloween parties over the late October weekend. The presentation of Halloween within its food hall is truly impressive, featuring a broad range of food related products to help customers lay on a frightfully delicious night in, and all presented to a high standard. Elsewhere instore, participation may be limited but the food offer is relevant and done well.
Waitrose was the last of all the big supermarkets to implement their Halloween in-store promotion, with its full launch appearing only one week before the big day, and long behind ‘first out of the gate’ Asda.
The POS campaign takes forward the brand’s new striped brand identity, with additional pumpkins and creepy things interwoven. Though stylish, its POS campaign has a more sophisticated, adult feel that’s far from a ‘children-first’ retail execution – surprising, given they are the primary focus of the event. Overall, it represents a missed opportunity for Waitrose to ‘loosen up’ and get more into the party spirit, so to speak.
Instore, its Halloween presence is spread across three different areas: the front of store table, adjacent seasonal area and an area close to Christmas stationery further into the store. The result is a seasonal event that feels diluted and lacking impact by comparison to others.
While question marks may continue to surround Black Friday, it is clear that the future of black tinged with orange (purples and greens) remains bright. Every year, Halloween in the UK continues to increase in popularity. Halloween is now firmly cemented in shoppers’ psyche, providing an opportunity to get into the spirit of celebration with what is fast becoming the unofficial opener for the big run-up to Christmas. It certainly is a great chance for retailers to connect with their customers in ways that aren’t available any other time of the year. And judging by our visits to supermarkets over the past few weeks, there are plenty of retailers hoping Halloween will serve up a treat or two. And by treats, we’re talking a sizeable spike in sales and profits.
See more Halloween 2019 in-store images here.