Halloween events aplenty in Singapore as local businesses cash in

Halloween events aplenty in Singapore as local businesses cash in

Halloween is serious business for Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), which operates the Universal Studios theme park in Singapore and a Halloween Horror Nights event that grows in scale every year.

This year, the event's sixth, it takes a small army of 400 actors, 120 makeup artists and a host of other staff to transforming the venue every nightfall into a scene straight out of a horror movie. Cheery storefronts on the main stretch of the theme park are draped with cotton-wool cobwebs and the sound-system broadcasts menacing sound effects instead of the usual upbeat music.

RWS event organizers told CNBC that 170,000 visitors attended Halloween Horror Nights last year, when the event ran 14 days (or, nights). The event will run for an additional 2 days to cater to the snaking queues, finishing on 31 October.

Each year, more Singaporean businesses are following RWS to respond to growing demand for novelty goods and services celebrating Halloween.

Horror with a local flavor

But localization is key in selling US Halloween traditions to Singapore.

Halloween Horror Nights features supernatural creatures from both the Western and Asian canon. Among the zombies and ghouls are Asian horror staples like the fox spirit, a shape-shifting spirit common in East Asian mythology, and the pontianak, a female vampire ghost that originates from Malaysian and Indonesian folklore.

"Horror with a distinctively Singapore flavor has been a bit hit with fans in previous editions," Jason Horkin, senior vice president of attractions at RWS, said.

Local venues associated with the supernatural also make an appearance. Among the five haunted houses that horror fans at Universal Studios can visit is a replica of Old Changi Hospital, an abandoned hospital in the city-state.

There is, however, one aspect of Halloween that has survived the migration to Asia: candy. When October rolls around, retailers from supermarkets to specialty food stores pull out all the stops to give customers an authentic Halloween shopping experience.

Candylicious, a confectionery emporium with stores in Singapore and Malaysia, begins stocking Halloween themed products from September. While the company said that the more conventional Christmas and Chinese New Year holiday periods saw more customers looking for a sugar fix, sales did pick up in the week before Halloween.

And although the jury is still out on what the best Halloween candy is, Candylicious reckoned its most popular products so far were Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins and candy corn.

Small but scary business

Niche businesses in Singapore are also cashing in on the festivities.

One of these is Custom Costumes & Merchandise, one of the largest costume rental companies in the country. The company reported a 50 per cent increase in costume rentals during Halloween season, compared to average monthly rental numbers.

"Halloween is basically the craziest period of the year," Sanee Neo, a sales manager at Custom Costumes, told CNBC.

He said customers booked outfits from the company's selection of more than 50,000 costumes up to a month in advance of Halloween in order to keep up with the latest in popular culture. This year, costumes for DC Comics characters have been in high demand due to the "Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad" films.

The F&B sector in Singapore, meanwhile, has well and truly capitalised on Halloween.

The Lo & Behold Group, a lifestyle and hospitality company, threw its first "Alice in Wonderland"-themed Halloween party in 2009 at The White Rabbit, a restaurant located in a restored 1930s chapel.

"We've definitely seen the crowd gain more and more momentum over the years," Tammi Lin, marketing manager at Lo & Behold, said, with the crowd growing by 15 to 20 per cent each year and 700 partygoers attending last year's bash.

The company is aware it's not the only local business to co-opt Halloween as a marketing ploy, so puts a lot of effort into marketing its events. This year, Lo & Behold has signed up the iconic World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) group as its party partner, to complement its chosen "Fight Club" theme.

The guest profile at Lo & Behold's Halloween parties is a "good 50-50 split between Singaporeans and expatriates," according to a spokesperson, which suggests that in Singapore, everyone's keen for a frightfully good time.

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