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Too early for trick or treat? Understanding US and UK consumer sentiment around Halloween

By Trish Pencarska, customer marketing manager

The summer holidays are over, students have returned to school, and fall is upon us. Whether you’ve already indulged in your first Pumpkin Spice Latte or are still holding on to your Birkenstocks – the spooky season is nearly here!

Some think that the unofficial date marking the start of fall is September 1. The sun worshippers among us tend to disagree – ignoring that days are getting darker and nights are getting longer. But how do the customers on either side of the pond respond to the pressures of getting their jack-o’-lantern out earlier and earlier every year?

To find out, we used a social listening tool to gather online Halloween conversations from people in the UK and US. We uploaded this data to Relative Insight’s text analysis platform to compare how people in both countries anticipated Halloween at the start of September.

Our social insights software enables us to eliminate the obvious when interpreting social listening data. This means our analysis goes far beyond traditional word clouds and – rather than just highlighting that the word ‘Halloween’ appeared most frequently – truly gets to the heart of what people are saying.

So, are people in the UK and US ready to start carving pumpkins? What’s the ideal time to introduce the seasonal ranges into shops? Our consumer sentiment analysis revealed all.

All things nice and pumpkin spice

Our consumer sentiment study found that Americans love Halloween and are 21.7x more likely to say that it is their favorite time of the year. On the last day of August, US audiences proudly proclaimed that “Halloween starts tomorrow,while Brits were still busy celebrating the last days of summer.

In early September, social users in the United States were 3.1x more likely to talk about Halloween food and drink – especially candy and anything pumpkin spice flavored.

“It is officially Clean Girl Fall so you know my candles are all-natural soy wax apple cinnamon, my oat milk latte is pumpkin spice, my house is already decorated for Halloween and my skin is adequately moisturized for the change in temperature.”

While some are fully embracing the fall aesthetic and enriching their diets with orange-colored foods, others appear to be slightly more cynical:

“Retailers have figured out that if you buy Halloween candy this early, you’re gonna have to buy more at least two or three times.”

As the preparations unfold, Americans are 3.9x more likely to discuss Halloween decorations, even before the leaves start to yellow. With many customers impatiently waiting for their local Spirit Halloween Store to open, they are 7.8x more likely to “start decorating” early. Similarly, they’re already making plans on dressing to kill, as Americans are 3.0x more likely to discuss eerie costumes for themselves and their children.

US consumer sentiment is pro-Halloween

Too early for skeletons to come out of the closet

In a more reserved manner, consumer sentiment across the UK suggests that September is too early to start celebrating Halloween. Whether they are holding on to the last days of summer, or simply don’t see the appeal, Brits are 10.6x times more likely to talk about the frustration at the early appearance of the jack-o’-lantern. Especially since it often appears alongside Christmas decorations.

“People moan that Christmas stuff starts earlier every year, the same is happening for Halloween! Just annoying that people feel the need to drag everything out making it less special! Don’t need each 1-day fest to last 8 weeks.”

However, the novelty of the early arrival of Halloween decorations has been embraced by shops such as TJ Maxx and The Range. Interestingly, one themed item that has made a lasting impression on the Brits is Halloween bedding, which was 26x times more likely to be mentioned. In fact, UK grocer Asda introduced a range of Halloween duvets covers in August, and it flew off the shelves!

“Cats sitting on windowsill watching thunder and lightning. I’ve got a candle burning and my Halloween bedding on. I’m thriving.”

But, while décor may not be a priority for UK consumers, watching scary movies is a popular activity. Brits are 14.1x times more likely to talk about cinema and 6.0x more likely to talk about films compared to Americans. Rather than going trick-or-treating, it seems that rewatching old classics is how the UK celebrates October 31.

People in the UK like Halloween films

What does this mean for retail vendors?

Based on our findings, there is a strong case to start introducing Halloween ranges into stores as early as possible in the United States. People are excited about the run-up to Halloween, as it marks the start of fall, with Thanksgiving and Christmas to follow soon.

It is also a good opportunity for FMCG brands and hospitality businesses to introduce seasonal products which chime with consumer sentiment, particularly those with a spin on pumpkin spice, which is already beloved by so many Americans.

On the other hand, British consumers are not interested in starting the spooky season early. But there is an opportunity for more novelty items (as seen with bedding) which seem to receive a far warmer reception. Perhaps it’s time for vendors to get creative and get those spooky patterns on things that we don’t necessarily associate with trick-or-treating.

Placement is also important. Introducing Halloween and Christmas ranges at the same time seems to kill the mood, so given Brits’ love for classic horror, make sure to have The Mummy and Dracula in stock and as far away from Christmas lights as possible.


At Relative Insight, we help organisations analyze their audience data – from customer feedback, reviews or social listening – to generate actionable business intelligence, so you can adapt your strategy to target your customers in a way that resonates with them the most. Get in touch with us today to learn more.

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