Spooky Business: Sexy is out and scary is in on Ireland's high streets

Sitting between summer and the Christmas onslaught, Halloween is becoming an increasingly lucrative holiday for Irish businesses.

Spooky Business: Sexy is out and scary is in on Ireland's high streets

Photocall Ireland / Rolling News

It's not your imagination - Halloween is a bigger deal than usual this year.

In fact, Irish businesses who rely on the ghoulish holiday say that business is booming - and there's no sign of a slowdown.

Halloween HQ is one retailer which is befitting from the surge in demand. "We saw the Halloween trend in the US moving across the water," founder Vincent Lynch told Newstalk.com. "It is the one season that's growing for retail, it's bigger every year."

With the increased demand for costumes and ghoulish goods on the up, he opened a stand alone pop-up store in Cork in 2012, but since then the business has flourished.

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This year, 16 shops are open in prime retail locations across Ireland, including outlets in Dundrum Town Centre, Liffey Valley, and Jervis Shopping Centre in Dublin, along with St Patrick's St. and Mahon Point in Cork.

"It’s a selfish season, not like Christmas. You are buying things for yourself," the businessman added.

Retailers hope that the big day falling on a Monday will result in Ireland's biggest-ever Halloween shopping spree, as Halloween HQ says there are "three whole days" of long-weekend spending on the way.

There has been a shift in demand on the high street however, as punters seek costumes which are scary not sexy:

"There was a trend around 2006 and 2007 with the nurses and French maids, but the holiday has gone scary again" he reflected.

This insight is echoed by Mandy Berry from Dublin's iconic Fun Place costume store, and while the Christmas lights are already up on Gratfon St around the corner, the shop is gearing up for its busiest weekend of the year:

"Shoppers aren't into the short sexy costumes that are easy, they are more adventurous in their choices," she told Newstalk.

"People are spending more on the accessories ... more special effects makeup, that seems to be the trend" she added.

Halloween HQ says that there is an increase in demand for personalised (and Instagram friendly) outfits using 3D makeup to create creepy looks, "like you would see in a Hollywood movie."

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The holiday is a full time job for the company. It employs 10 staff numbers year-round, and some 200 seasonal staff from mid-August to mid-November.

Mr Lynch revealed to Newstalk that planning is already underway for Halloween 2017 and that they have also signed a major deal with Calendar Club in the UK. The merged entity is the largest chain of Halloween stores in the world, outside of the US where extravagant Halloweens are the norm.

It will also open its first year-round Party HQ store in Ireland during the first quarter of 2017.

Bigger players are taking note of the trend too. Tesco Ireland told Newstalk that Halloween spending is up, and that it is offering more and more floor-space to the holiday.

"Over the past few years we have seen an increase in customers engaging with Halloween products in our stores. We have increased our customer proposition, giving customers more choice at better value."

"Crossing savoury and novelty, we anticipate pumpkin sales to rise by up to 30% year-on-year due to increased customer demand," the supermarket continued.

It's not just retailers who are getting in on the action either; The Nightmare Realm, "Ireland’s most terrifying scare house attraction," has moved to Dublin for the first time.

After starting in Tralee in 2009, and terrifying 250,000 people in Cork since 2011, this is the first year that the company is in both Dublin’s RDS and Albert Quay in Cork.

It expects to attract 50,000 people this year in Dublin alone, with peak-time adult tickets retailing for €21.

“The Nightmare Realm has grown immensely over the past seven years, as too has the public appetite for fresh, new and engaging experiences," creator Karl O’Connor commented at this year's launch.

"There is nothing, or has been nothing, like this in Dublin so we’ve decided to spread terror beyond Cork with our Dublin debut.  We have sourced the very best special effect technologies for both productions, so it really will blow your mind," he continued.

IFI Horrorthon

The Irish Film Institute (IFI) will hold its 19th annual Horrorthon to mark the holiday. The October scare-fest, which mixes cutting-edge horrors with nostalgic throwbacks, is one on the most important events in its calendar.

"Horrorthon is a hugely important event for us every year, as it draws passionate horror fans from all over the country to the IFI. It’s a very busy weekend as we have 34 separate screenings over the festival’s five days, in additional to our regular releases," the IFI told Newstalk.

It begins planning its Halloween programme in May each year. Korean zombie-smash Train to Busan has already been a hit with Irish audiences, as its IFI screening quickly sold out.

Horrorthon is just one example of a business making the most of the holiday. Nestled between the death of summer and the pre-Christmas onslaught, Halloween is a crucial event for a number of sectors. Pubs, clubs, live music promoters and family attractions around the island are hoping to top-up their coffers in the coming days.

There are no comprehensive figures measuring its economic impact in Ireland, but in the UK it's worth some £400m. That figure is up from only £12m in 2000, and where the holiday competes with Guy Fawkes.