Spooky Grows Up – How Adult Halloween Spending Has Evolved

Although it has its origins in the UK, the CelticAll Hallows’ Evening’ has, for generations, been far less celebrated in the UK than the likes of the U.S. or Latin America. In fact, until relatively recently, the UK only really recognised Halloween as an event for children, which was clearly played out by retailers, who dedicated (at most) an aisle to kids costumes and trick or treat fodder. A poll by Channel Mum last year showed how key kids still are to 31st October, with 84% of families planning to celebrate the day. However, the sharp growth of Halloween in very recent years may not be attributable to this young demographic at all.


Retail expenditure on Halloween products in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2013 to 2018



Mintel claims it is pre-family adults who are most likely to spend big on Halloween, with 58% of 16-24 year-olds and 55% of 25-34 year olds buying into themed products and services. With related categories, like alcohol, also enjoying spikes at the end of October, the evidence strongly points to an adult audience driving the Halloween experience. Adult social media environments are packed with Halloween inspiration: from pumpkin-carving skills to creepy craft and cookery ideas to costumes. The range of approaches to each and every one of these areas show that, when it comes to the adult shopper, more consideration is needed by brands if they hope to connect in an engaging way.


We have picked out a few of the key trends for Millennial Halloween shoppers, which most definitely differentiate from the kids market we are so familiar with. For relevant brands, moving assets on from ghosts and ghouls will demonstrate an understanding of how adult consumers want to connect with the day.


Premium Frights

The premiumisation of Halloween has reached an all-time high in 2018. Items like John Lewis’ spooky wreaths and Hotel Chocolat’s ‘novelty’ range are clear signals that the mass market won’t cut it for everybody anymore. Adult shoppers don’t want to regress for Halloween, instead, they demand a grown-up take on the occasion.



Bad Taste

Another, specifically adult, and very Millennial, take on Halloween is the bad taste vibe. The US has embraced this filter on Halloween for many years, and it is fast catching on in the UK. From Jimmy Saville Costumes (*yes, really: £27.99) to Zombie Brain cakes at Tesco, bad taste is blossoming for British shoppers.


Gore and the Grotesque

Related to bad taste, but definitely, a camp of its own is the grotesque. Celebrities rolling into Jonathan Ross’s annual bash have been perfecting this trend from a costume point of view, but in food too, it now seems the more realistically gory the better. Bloody eyeball anyone?



Real World Fears

The scares delivered by witches and ghouls may suit the kids but, for adults, Halloween can create the perfect opportunity to talk about real world fears. Jemima Khan’s 2016 outfit for Unicef’s Halloween Ball is a brilliant case in point. After the event, her controversial costume was auctioned in aid of refugee support. Using this time of year to make an important political, social point is increasingly appropriate.