Halloween was expected to be a hollow affair this year, with no parties, patchy trick-or-treating and an assumed ban on apple-bobbing. Yet retailers are reporting that this year’s stay-at-home spookiness will be among the biggest Halloweens yet in the UK for an industry estimated to be worth more than £400m.
“Despite the pandemic, Halloween certainly isn’t cancelled,” said Swasti Sarna, insights manager at Pinterest. “[People] are getting creative while staying safe this year by turning to at-home Halloween games and decorating every room in the house. Popular searches on Pinterest include creating a ‘haunted mansion bathroom’ or throwing a ‘Halloween garden party’”.
The social media network designed to share visual virtual pinboards works as a bellwether for current trends; searches on it in the UK for Halloween games are up 10 times since the same period last year, while Halloween home decor is up nine times that compared with last year. A demand for “Halloween costumes with masks” is 27 times greater.
The arts and crafts superstore Hobbycraft has reported “phenomenal demand” for its ceramic and papier-mache pumpkins this year; with more than a week still to go the retailer has already sold out. At Argos, “Nightmare Before Christmas” has become one of the top searches on the site as customers rush to buy a range of Disney Halloween products for children.
On parenting forums families are swapping tips on how to set up spooky scavenger hunts at home along with ghoulish baking and crafting ideas. Homemade fright nights are expected to be hugely popular this year, as parents adhere to pandemic restrictions but indulge children with mini Halloween parties that go all out on decorations, costumes and themed food.
Message-board threads on Mumsnet argued over whether trick-or-treating should be allowed to go ahead, with one parent listing a catastrophic year of family bereavements, cancelled birthdays and holidays as a reason to make the most of the occasion.
“We will be decorating, going out dressed up to look at other decorations, leaving a ton of sweets all over the front of our house just in case, I don’t care, my kids have had a really really shitty year,” wrote ToffiePenny. “We are going for it. We aren’t in a local lockdown yet … I’m giving my kids the chance to be kids this year. Even if it means it’s not 100% the same, it’s something.”
While adults will be forced to forgo the traditional horror show of fancy dress parties this year, much of the activity may just move online: Halloween costumes, otherworldly make-up and daft skits are still expected to haunt Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube throughout the weekend.
Specially themed eerie backgrounds are already proving to be a popular twist for those planning to get together on Zoom.
On Thursday Waitrose revealed that online searches for “Halloween” on its site were up 90% on the previous September and up 156% in the last week year on year.
Like many parents, Laura Cowan, founder of the Girls Rising movement, told the Observer she found her three daughters were especially giddy this year at the prospect of Halloween. In Welwyn Garden City, the family were looking forward to a pumpkin trail organised by their school’s parent-teacher association and planned to hang individual bags of sweets on their garden hedge for children who did trick-or-treat.
“I never used to be into Halloween but the girls are so excited about dressing up as zombies and I’m getting into it as I learn more about pagan festivals – Samhain being particularly significant,” Cowan said. “Coco, the Disney film about the Mexican Day of the Dead, was great for the girls. Having a collective day to honour the ancestors passed over? It is an amazing idea – especially now.”