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Is Halloween the new Christmas?

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Spooky as it sounds, but Halloween is, if not the new Christmas, but the start of the Christmas shopping season.

Until now I thought it was just in my house where my son (8) believes that Halloween is in fact the start of Christmas. He has a point: he gets a ton of sweets on 31 October, he then gets fireworks a few days later, then school disco, then his birthday, then Christmas. But he is not alone in starting the festive season so early. Shoppers too are at it.

According to two sets of research out this week, Halloweeen is taking on new – and frightening (see what I did there?) – significance in the run up to Christmas. According to Marler Haley, more searches happen for Halloween in October than happen for Christmas in December – especially on mobile. Meanwhile, research by Bazaarvoice, the first big spike in online shopping traffic takes place on Halloween, with 260% more online traffic than normal, with steady increases and large spikes taking place in the lead-up to Christmas.

In fact, it is becoming clear that my son is far from alone in (trick) or treating Halloween as the kick of the festive season.

While the news story this week deals with the details, it is worth maybe considering why this has come to pass. There are two factors at play here. Firstly, it is only in recent times that we have seen the phenomenon of Black Friday rear its head and create an online selling peak before Christmas. Three years ago this was an interesting anomaly: today it is being treated as at least a week long – longer if you take into account this Halloween effect we seem to be seeing this year.

Secondly, the rise of online and mobile shopping has radically changed shopping habits and with them how cultural events such as Halloween, Christmas and even Easter are viewed.

Combined, these two factors have created a very different attitude among shoppers. To say that impulse shopping is now rife would be an understatement. With mobiles in particularly, shoppers can just search and click and have what they want in a matter of hours. For Halloween this has been a boon: where once people may have been reticent about getting that Dracula outfit with full cape and fangs (hint, hint), now they ‘what the hell’ it and buy it.

What has this got to do with Black Friday? This ethos of spontaneous purchasing, I believe, then starts to drive more considered buying. While they are looking for a Halloween costume, they see things that there kids might like for Halloweeen, then things that they might like for Christmas. “Better buy them now while I think of it” comes into play – and, Bam! You have the beginnings of a two month shopping cycle around Christmas.

I think this year Brexit is also having an impact, with many people expecting the inevitable crash at some point between 2018 and 2019, but are yet to feel it. I have certainly heard people talking of ‘making this the last big Christmas to remember before Brexit’.

These factors – cultural shift and the ‘jam today’ mentality – are combining to make this year’s Halloween a much more significant shopping day than it may have been in the past. It will be interesting to see if Halloween remains the starting point for a frenzied seasonal shopping spree in years to come. For now, though, I am happy to be scared by what is in store for 2017. Mwahahahahahaha….

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