Halloween treats retailers’ new trick

by Minoru Matsutani

Retailers and sweets makers are cashing in on the rising enthusiasm among Japanese for Halloween, a Western tradition that has become popular here only in the past decade.

Some industry sources even predict the Halloween-related market will surge 60 percent from last year as more Japanese get into wearing costumes, saying “trick or treat” to neighbors or simply looking for an excuse to party.

“Convenience stores and department stores began Halloween decorations two or three weeks earlier this year. Sales of sweets and snacks in Halloween packaging are really strong,” said Kiyoshi Kase, representative of the Japanese Anniversary Association, an independent group that helps businesses’ sales campaigns by creating and pitching various “commemoration” dates. “Related industries want to get on the bandwagon,” he said.

The association estimates that Halloween-related sales will total ¥60 billion this year, up by about 60 percent from last year’s record ¥38 billion.

Kase attributed the sharp sales rise to a combination of several factors: Japanese have become more familiar with the event, stores are accordingly starting sales campaigns earlier, and more parties are being planned at home and restaurants this year with Oct. 31 falling on a Saturday.

Many people also want to cheer themselves up at little cost amid the gloom of the recession, Kase added.

“When the economy slumps, people stay home and celebrate anniversaries for their families. Halloween is about kids and parents spending money on them,” Kase said. “And after all, candy and costumes are cheap. Halloween is a reasonable indulgence.”

Spokeswoman Mayumi Funaki of online mall Rakuten Inc. said sales of Halloween goods jumped 45 percent this year thanks to brisk interest in costumes for women and kids.

Discount chain Don Quijote Co. saw its sales of Halloween-related goods rise 20 percent this year, spokeswoman Aya Suzuki said. She also cited increased demand for costumes.

Daiso Sangyo, which runs ¥100 shops, began Halloween campaigns three years ago and the popularity of goods such as witch’s hats, presents bags and stickers has been growing ever since, spokeswoman Hiroko Kusaka said.

Morinaga & Co., a major confectionary maker, is selling 11 Halloween-related products, up from nine last year, and sales have increased 20 percent from a year ago, spokeswoman Kaori Nakamura said.

Luxury goods sellers and amusement parks are also riding the momentum.

Isetan department stores stepped up their Halloween campaigns this year and customers have shown increased interest in related accessories and other fashion goods, Isetan Mitsukoshi Holding spokeswoman Miyako Otsuka said.

Oriental Land Co., operator of Tokyo Disney Resort, began Halloween events and decorations in Tokyo DisneySea for the first time this year, because a similar campaign in Tokyo Disneyland, which began 1997, has become popular recently, a company spokeswoman said.

These firms hope Halloween keeps growing and becomes a major consumer event like Christmas. The anniversary group’s Kase is optimistic.

“This year is the detonator of a Halloween frenzy bomb and the frenzy will continue from next year on,” he said.