Thursday 8 December 2016

Scaring up millions: Halloween generates a €10m treat for businesses

Greg Harkin

Published 24/10/2016 | 02:30

Trick or treat – Derry’s annual three-day-long Halloween festival continues to grow, while
attactions such as The Nightmare Realm (pictured) are increasingly popular. Photo: Miki Barlok
Trick or treat – Derry’s annual three-day-long Halloween festival continues to grow, while attactions such as The Nightmare Realm (pictured) are increasingly popular. Photo: Miki Barlok

The growing popularity of Halloween is set to give the economy its biggest ever multi-million euro boost, businesses and experts say.

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From family friendly fun to spine-chilling horror, the rapidly growing number of attractions creates thousands of extra seasonal jobs.

Derry City is hosting its 30th carnival parade alongside its legendary fireworks display
Derry City is hosting its 30th carnival parade alongside its legendary fireworks display

The average family will spend €50 on activities associated with Halloween, which has its roots in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.

"Halloween generates around €10m in extra retail spending alone by families on outfits, masks, decorations and sweets for the massive 'trick or treat' phenomenon," said economist Jim Power.

The huge increase in all things Halloween has turned one Kerry business into a phenomenon.

Product designer Karl O'Connor has taken a small show in Tralee to thousands of people in Cork over the past couple of years.

This year he's also brought his Nightmare Realm to the RDS in Dublin.

He says Halloween is now an important part of his overall business.

"I run a prop-building company and we are based in a rural area at Knocknacashel in north Kerry," he said.

"Our main business involves product design and we would make 3D billboard displays for clients like Bulmers and Vodafone.

"We started our Halloween shows in a small way in Tralee in 2008 and we expanded it when we took it to Cork. We had 30,000 visitors to The Nightmare Realm there last year.

"This year we've added a second location at the RDS in Dublin. The experiences at both are completely different. We make all the sets in Kerry and then ship them to Cork and Dublin. It has become a huge part of what we do now. We have five staff all year round but we need to bring in an extra 20 staff for all the prop-building work associated with the show and then we hire another 200 actors over the two weeks of the shows themselves, so the wage bill gets very very big at this time of the year."

Small businesses now rely on Halloween as part of their annual plans, according to Joseph McMahon who runs Scalp Wood Nurseries in Co Dublin.

Read more: Nine things to do in and around Dublin this Halloween

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Children get to pick and carve their own pumpkins as Joseph and his three members of staff transform the nursery into a family-friendly spooky spectacle.

"The nursery business has changed so our Halloween events are important to us," he said.

"There is little doubt that Halloween is getting more popular each year and we've had to introduce online booking to cope with demand - we have to insist on that."

Entry is just €2, with €4 to pick a pumpkin and €2.50 for a carving kit. Activities take place in a polytunnel.

"We really enjoy it, too," said Joseph.

"It's great fun and for a couple of weeks the nursery is thriving."

More than 30 extra staff are hired at the Delphi Hotel Resort and Adventure Centre in Connemara to cope with demand for Halloween-themed family breaks.

"It's just like high season in the summer," said the resort's marketing director Sarah Kenny.

"It's a great time of the year and we pull out all the stops to make it fun and spooky."

The Halloween kids' club and Dungeons of Doom are aimed at children of all ages with a Forest of Fear for children aged over eight. "We have seen an increase in the number of visitors this year, particularly from the United States, but Halloween is now an important part of our overall business.

"It's also a great time for people living in this region because we have day visitors too, so there is a great atmosphere at this time of the year and it's very very busy."

While the Halloween boom is relatively new, north of the Border businesses have been trading on the annual event for decades.

Derry City is hosting its 30th carnival parade alongside its legendary fireworks display.

It brings 50,000 people into the city and fills hotel bedrooms in both Donegal and Derry.

"The annual Halloween carnival attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world curious to experience the city at this time of year, especially as it was voted the number one Halloween destination in the world last year," said the local council's Aisling Gallagher.

"Hotels, restaurants, bars and shops across the north west all benefit during the festivities and we believe this year's three-day festival could be our biggest yet."

Irish Independent

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