Halloween scares up big sales

Halloween scares up big sales

Walking past a black- and-white bungalow in Oxford Street near Seletar Airport, you suddenly see dismembered hands emerging from the ground.

Menacing ghosts roost in the trees. Swords and shields are strewn on the ground. Presiding over all this is a king, crowned and in a red fur-trimmed robe. He is lawyer Joshua Raj Thomas.

And those scary things lurking around? His decorations for a mediaeval-themed Halloween party last Friday.

Mr Thomas, 33, says he spent "a few hundred dollars" on decorations, most of which were bought from Giant hypermart and Toys R Us.

On going to such lengths for the annual festival associated with the supernatural, which falls on Thursday, he says: "I have Christmas and Chinese New Year parties as well, but Halloween is the most enjoyable.

"People find it fun to dress up and to come in something they would not normally wear," he adds.

He is one of a growing number of Singaporeans who have embraced the Halloween spirit in recent years. The fact that All Hallows' Eve has its roots in Celtic and Christian traditions, and is mostly celebrated in Western cultures, matters not a whit to them.

Sales of Halloween products have steadily increased in the past few years, according to large retail chains and smaller party supply stores. The stores declined to give specific figures.

A Cold Storage spokesman says the supermarket chain has seen a "double-digit growth in sales each year" of Halloween products, including gruesome gummy candies and creepy costumes.

Cold Storage started stocking a small selection of Halloween items at a few outlets, including Great World City and Market in Tanglin, more than 10 years ago. It now stocks more than 100 types of products at 35 out of 55 of its stores. Prices range from $3 for sweets to $50 for decorations and costumes.

Craft supply shop Spotlight in Plaza Singapura also says it has seen a steady 10 per cent year-on-year growth in the sale of such products since it started selling them seven years ago. Among more than 100 of such items are trick-or-treat bags and spooky room decorations. Prices range from $2 to $11 for decorations and accessories, to about $40 for costumes.

Spotlight's spokesman says growth is likely to continue as Halloween will fall on either a Friday or Saturday in the next two years.

In the United States, where Halloween gained popularity in the early 20th century, the holiday is a billion-dollar business. Americans are expected to spend US$6.9 billion (S$8.5 billion) on the holiday this year, according to a Halloween Consumer Spending Survey conducted by National Retail Federation.

To get a leg up on the cheaper, mass- produced Halloween stock found in supermarkets, smaller retailers are offering more niche - and ghoulish - wares.

On top of the usual plastic pumpkins and fake spider webs, party supply store Heartlink Trading in Middle Road also stocks gruesomely life-like rubber limbs, torsos and organs.

Heartlink's managing director Amy Lee, 41, says: "People are buying more of the special items now, including realistic- looking bats, snakes and skulls. They are more exposed to such things. Maybe they have travelled to the US and have seen these things, and want to buy them here."

At another party supply store, The Party Stuff, stranger Halloween items include a Frankenstein pinata ($42.90) and shiny inflatable ghost balloons ($24.90).

The Party Stuff - which has three outlets, at Changi City Point, The Central and Velocity@Novena Square - says sales of Halloween products are up 50 per cent, compared to 2011 when they first started selling them.

Its manager Ms Michelle Santiago, 28, attributes this growth to the festival's higher profile. "There is a greater awareness of Halloween now, especially with theme parks and attractions hosting events during the season," she says.

Shop owners say that customers are split evenly between both genders, with most aged between 18 and 30.

Mr Edmund Yap, 57, sole proprietor of AZ Gift & Trading in Middle Road, says that celebrating Halloween is "a trend among youngsters".

Businesswoman Pauline Tan, who is in her mid-40s, has decked out her bungalow in Sunset Way with lit-up ghosts, spider webs and spiders - ahead of Thursday's trick-or-treating.

"It's hard not to get caught up in it because you get to dress up and even adults enjoy it once they get into the spirit of it," says Ms Tan, who lives with her dentist husband, who is in his 40s, and their two sons, aged 12 and 10.

She adds: "It's a chance to have some fun and maybe a bit of a scare at the same time."


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