Is the licensing business doing all it can to secure the orange pound?
In the US, Halloween is the second most commercially successful holiday after Christmas. According to the ‘internet’ at least.
However, it’s certainly believable; Halloween is a massive event in the US and other territories are slowly starting to catch on too. And, of course, there is major potential for certain licensed products to really make an impact.
But, as an industry, are we really making the most of it?
Britons will spend almost £300 million on Halloween products, putting it third behind Christmas and Easter – says Paul Bufton, UK general manager at Warner Bros Consumer Products. “Halloween is an incredibly important time for the licensing industry and UK retail in general,” he explains. “Many of the key products that are intrinsically related to Halloween – confectionery, costumes and party goods – are widely licensed, so as a season Halloween is a key selling period which provides a focal point and encourages consumer sales.”
Companies such as Kinnerton, Bon Bon Buddies and Greencore – which has just launched a celebration cake featuring The Count from Sesame Street into Sainsbury’s – plus dress-up firms including Smiffy’s and Rubies are all primed to take advantage of the season.
The music category can also be tapped into - for example a number of Halloween-themed Sesame Street products are currently featured on iTunes in the UK, Elmo Says Boo and The Count's Countdown.
“Confectionery is obviously huge, in fact we’ve just signed a deal with Swizzels Matlow for Scooby-Doo branded versions of their classic sweets including Love Hearts and Drumstick lollies,” Bufton continues. “Halloween is a key time for our dress-up partner Rubies and party goods are big sellers as consumers plan to host their own Halloween parties.
“Halloween also has an increasing significance to the publishing category, with partners like Panini which publish specials of some of their magazines.”
For Warner then – with its portfolio of properties including the likes of Scooby-Doo, Batman, Superman and classic movies like The Wizard of Oz, all of which lend themselves to dress-up – Halloween is of increasing importance. Indeed, it has just kicked off a new experiential marketing drive, with the Scooby-Doo Mystery Mansion promoting all areas of the business – consumer products, home entertainment and interactive. The van will be making a number of stops over the Halloween period, including a sleepover at London Zoo.
For those licensors, too, which have vampire-themed brands in their stables it is also a chance to add some incremental sales at retail. Rocket Licensing has been pursuing further opportunities for HBO’s True Blood, while Entertainment One will no doubt be making the most of the Twilight Saga. Hammer Films – handled by Coolabi – is another strong example.
“There’s a scope of opportunity for the licensing industry to generate extra revenues,” agrees Saphia Maxamed, member services manager at trade body LIMA UK. “For example, the US market often seizes opportunity at the right time. Glee has put together a special Halloween episode in the style of the Rocky Horror Show ahead of the celebration, while The Simpsons is also famous for Halloween episodes and these have often found their way into the vast licensing programme internationally.”
Can Halloween in the UK ever match the levels seen in the US though? And, ultimately, it is worth all the bother for such a short time frame?
“A few years ago we created a Dennis the Menace Halloween mini style guide,” says Ian Downes, MD of Start Licensing. “This was to try and sell a themed concept into retail. We were unsuccessful and I think it may have been too early. However, I think things would be different now as Halloween seems to have become more established and accepted at retail.
“That said it will, by definition, have to be a short and very specific opportunity. I think characters with a natural fit, such as Scooby-Doo, will probably use the theme to good effect, but I would be cautious about pushing the opportunity into too many categories.”
Warner’s Bufton certainly believes the Halloween opportunity is certainly one that can be developed, however. “Most properties can have a relevance if you look beyond scary and place the onus on fantasy and the fact that Halloween is a good excuse to be someone else for the day – whether that be Scooby, Batman, Harry Potter, Bugs Bunny or a generic witch or ghost, and have some fun.”