Halloween (3)

With the 31 October falling on a Saturday, this year’s Halloween celebrations could spell a significant sales opportunity for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Not only are Saturdays a naturally busier shopping day in terms of footfall traffic but, with the event falling on a weekend, it encourages more people to mark the occasion.

Last year was the highest UK Halloween spend on record, with retailers raking in £330 million. Costumes, snacks and decorations have all soared in popularity, with fancy dress shops alone seeing a 20% increase in demand in 2014. Much of this was due to the fact that the festival fell on a Friday last year, so people decided to host parties or go trick-or-treating, and so 2015’s Saturday Halloween holds the same potential.

Lots of major chains are already heavily promoting the event, with larger retailers incentivising customers to make Halloween purchases, which could put a squeeze on smaller independents. However, the SME’s strength lies in that they can be more creative and agile than their corporate rivals when making the most of the opportunities such as All Hallows Eve.

Here, I will outline four ways small businesses can capitalise on this peak trading period and not lurk in the shadows of larger competitors.

Spookify your store

Chances are, chain retailers are just going to stack their shelves high with novelty goods and hang up a few paper pumpkins and plastic bats. Unhindered by decorative directives from Head Office, SMEs can go ‘all out’ when it comes to getting into the Halloween spirit. Why not turn your entire store into a witch’s coven or devil’s den? Not only will it amuse and delight customers, tales of the must-see Halloween display will spread by word of mouth and social media, giving you an additional marketing clout and talkability.

Devise devilishly good offers

Creating a sense of urgency is a great way to get customers to commit to a purchase quickly. Turn this to your advantage by developing Halloween flash promotions, which offer shoppers the chance to snap up a different bargain every day. Not only will this stimulate impulse spending, it will drive repeat business, as consumers return to see today’s special offer.

Get into the Halloween spirit!

One of the reasons Halloween captures people’s imagination is because it’s fun. Embrace the festivities in your store by getting staff to dress up. Or why not incorporate a experiential element in the run up to the day – perhaps hold an apple bobbing contest or create a trick-or-treat tombola - anything that gets customers involved can drive footfall to your store. Being fun and quirky is part of independent shopping’s appeal.

Novelty doesn’t have to be expensive

Finally, don’t forget the potential for incremental spending at Halloween. In addition to your spookily-themed merchandise, display low value novelties at the point of sale; even those who don’t invest fully in the festival might pick up a bag of chocolate skeletons or a pair of wind up teeth on a whim. And, with the contactless spending limit recently rising to £30, businesses with a contactless card terminal have even greater capacity to encourage additional spending amongst your customers by enabling them to simply ‘tap and pay’.

By Gareth Poppleton, MD at Retail Merchant Services