LONDON, United Kingdom — Scaring Is Caring, Boohoo reminded its shoppers. Bow Down Witches, said PrettyLittleThing. This year, Gen Z’s favourite shopping destinations are telling brand fans “how to look hot” for Halloween.
Halloween costumes have long been under the purview of discount stores and speciality boutiques, which lure shoppers in with elaborate fancy dress ensembles and head-to-toe themed looks. But fashion retailers are increasingly getting in on the action.
Halloween spending in the US hit $9.1 billion last year, according to the National Retail Federation. In addition, the body found consumers plan to spend $3.2 billion on costumes this year, purchased by 68 percent of Halloween shoppers. Mintel forecasts that consumers in the UK will spend £419 million on the holiday this year, up 5 percent from £400 million in 2017.
For the social-media savvy millennial and Gen Z generations in particular, the Halloween holiday has created a great “Instagram opportunity.” However, while the younger demographic want to dress up, they also aren’t keen to splash too much cash on a fancy dress outfit that they’ll never wear again. Indeed, market intelligence agency Mintel found that 75 percent of Halloween shoppers in the UK said they want to be able to reuse their Halloween costumes and decorations.
“Instagram pushes people towards fashion brands because they want something that’s going to be very flattering, that they will be able to wear again, that is super cheap,” said Florence Allday, an analyst at Euromonitor International.
In recent years, fast fashion retailers popular with young shoppers, from Forever 21 and Asos to Boohoo and PrettyLittleThing, have been ramping up their participation in the holiday, crafting dedicated campaigns that begin as early as mid-September that show shoppers how to style fashion items — which can later be integrated into their regular wardrobes — into costumes.
Product offerings will often include a range of Halloween-themed accessories, such as cat ears or oversized crucifix-style earrings, paired with everyday clothing items or “going out” pieces, such as a black lace bodycon dress (witch), a red trouser-bandeau combo (devil) or black faux-leather leggings (vampire).
“Our approach to Halloween is all about variety and not being too literal,” said a representative for Nasty Gal.
Instagram pushes people towards fashion brands. They want something they will be able to wear again, that is super cheap.
Unlike some third-party sellers on Amazon or independent costume shops, fashion retailers like Asos and Boohoo have the advantage of being able to offer super-fast delivery at an affordable price and an easy returns process, services younger shoppers have come to expect when purchasing fashion. In addition, these retailers provide a broad range of sizes. Nasty Gal’s £20 “No-Body's Fool Skeleton Jumpsuit” comes in sizes UK 4 or US 0 to UK 22 or US 18.
At present, fashion retailers’ Halloween costume market share is pretty slim. The National Retail Federation said that this year they expect 45 percent of US shoppers will visit discount stores, while 35 percent will go to a specialty Halloween store or costume store when buying costumes and other Halloween supplies. In the UK, Mintel found that last year 6 percent of UK shoppers bought their costumes from a fashion retailer — but this figure went up to 11 percent within the 16-to-34 age bracket.
There’s scope for retailers to further capitalise on the Halloween opportunity in the future, which Chana Baram, retail analyst at Mintel, says is a big one. “If you’re seeing [emails or Instagram posts about Halloween outfits] from your favourite brand, you might be more inclined to look at it rather than go elsewhere. People are buying into a lifestyle with that. You shop where you know. And that’s why this is a really good opportunity [for fashion retailers].”