/ Shopping, Technology, Travel & Leisure

Halloween spending rises like a bat out of hell

Which? Halloween pumpkins

There’s no stopping the rise of the Halloween monster in the UK – it’s now our third biggest retail event, dislodging Valentine’s Day and taking its place behind Easter and Christmas. Surprised?

When you sink your teeth into the stats, it comes as less of a shock.

In 2010 we discussed how a ‘frightful’ UK spend of £280m was expected for 31 October. Here we are five years on, and reports are predicting a 2015 expense that could exceed £400m – that’s a 42% increase!

We may still lag significantly behind the billions being spent in the US, but the UK clamour for Halloween is on a relentless march – millennials being the driving force behind the increases in interest and subsequent spending.

Is Halloween too commercialised?

Supermarkets are understandably keen to get involved (see Tesco below) – it’s unlikely you’ve been able to avoid the decorations and fright-themed packaging that adorn the shelves throughout the month. The commercialism can be suffocating, but then, it’s only a bit of fun isn’t it?

While Christmas and Easter have official holidays, those ‘celebrating’ Halloween nowadays are doing so in the name of having a good time with something a little bit different. Whether or not you can get on board with it all comes down to personal preference.

I actually quite enjoy Halloween’s unique atmosphere – if you get in the right spirit (sorry) then there’s certainly no harm in embracing it

We’ve been having a bit of fun here at Which?, and we’re pretty pleased with our pumpkin carving and decorating efforts! OK, the minion might not quite qualify as Halloween – but we do think they make pretty awesome pumpkins!

Our carved pumpkins

Overall we spent £7 on our three pumpkins, which could be worse given a reported pumpkin shortage following a very rainy August.

Have you been preparing for Halloween with lavish decorations and scary costumes? Or, like us, have you been making a mess carving pumpkins? It doesn’t have to be your cup of tea – you may have had your arm twisted by your kids who just don’t want to miss out!

Either way we’d love to hear if you’ve been splashing the cash – how much is too much? And of course, please do share your decorations with us.

Useful links

See Which? Best Buy pumpkins for next year


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it is of no great importance that we Christians celebrate the Birth of Christ in December. Remember that there were no birth certificates then or records then. they only became compulsory in the UK in 1835 !!! Ancient people did not attach much importance to time and dates as we do today. Most knew about seasons but little knew about dates and months. It was the learned of the day who told them about it. (In fact, whether I am born in February of June is of little importance to others who believe that I am alive.) December is a good time to bring new life and the Light of Christ into a darkened world (northern hemisphere) so the Early Church Fathers fixed it close to the shortest day. Good idea as far as I am concerned. Belief does not depend on the day Christ was born but on the fact that his death was universally redemptive.

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Every maintained school in England must provide a basic curriculum (RE, sex education and the National Curriculum). This includes provision for RE for all registered pupils at the school (including those in the sixth form), except for those withdrawn by their parents (or withdrawing themselves if they are aged 18 or over) in accordance with Schedule 19 to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.

The key document in determining the teaching of RE is the locally agreed syllabus within the LA concerned (see ‘Agreed syllabus’, p.14). Schools designated as having a religious character are free to make their own decisions in preparing their syllabuses. LAs must, however, ensure that the agreed syllabus for their area is consistent with Section 375(3) of the Education Act 1996, which requires the syllabus to reflect that the religious traditions of Great Britain are in the main Christian whilst taking account of the teaching and practices of the other principal religions represented in Great Britain.

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If what you say is provable then you have nothing to be concerned about.

Thanks to everyone who sent through a Black Friday contribution. I’m going to wait until closer to the day before publishing it. But in the meantime, I thought this was interesting. Asda is ditching Black Friday promotions after originally helping bring the day to the UK: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34774289

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I’m not sure about Black Friday. Last year, some people behaved like animals in the sales: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30241459

The Black Friday Riots could become an annual event unless the public takes action. Unfortunately, too many are obsessed with money and bargains to have much effect.

Or maybe they simply enjoy riots? 🙂

Can anyone say why it is called “Black” Friday?

Perhaps it should be Red Friday to reflect it’s effect on some people’s finances – or the colour of faces as they battle for the Polaroid tv. 😡

It’s usually regarded as means for stores to recoup trading losses over the year from the red into black and it is their reliance upon the Christmas shopping season to do just that, starting with the day following Thanksgiving Day, which takes place on the fourth Thursday in November, followed by Black Friday. The whole weekend is a federal holiday in the US.

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No one is entirely sure. The favoured explanation is that it’s when the stores go into the black, but some stories refer to the Philadelphia police department in 1966 who saw it as a “black” day because of the traffic chaos and crowds created by people flocking to shops in search of bargains.

“….unless the public take action”. The Black Friday “event” is attended by members of the “public”. We must be careful what we decide we should control – our views may not be others. I remember (from afar) the real New Year Sales – people queuing all night and scrambling through the doors next morning to snap up their bargain. I’ve watched football hooligans at work. But I wouldn’t ban sales or football matches.

I’m in too serious a mood this morning, so I’ll go right off topic and suggest that if the “public” were to take real action it would be to stop us killing and maiming innocent civilians in conflicts around the world. We treat military action, and consequent deaths, as somehow an acceptable way to behave. Sorry – the moderators are welcome to remove this comment. 🙁 🙁

Umm. Well this member of the public will be taking action by avoiding the commercial silliness.

I would support Black Friday being replaced by a World Peace Day.

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The main problem with Black Friday as I interpret it, is crowd pressure plus limited timescale = potential danger. If stores are not prepared to provide controlled access to crowd surges for one day sales events you can expect accidents to happen and in times of austerity the dangers are increased.

Beryl, I agree. It’s like all big events – need properly managing. From what I saw on tv last year it seemed to be very badly handled by some stores. Interesting if “lessons have been learned” (why is this always trotted out as an excuse when things go wrong – most lessons were learned a long time ago if only people were properly educated in their job).
Still a bit grumpy. 🙁

Just one observation. How bad were the issues last Black Friday? I know we saw images of mayhem, but the media is adept at only choosing exciting images, and I seriously doubt what happened in a few stores was reflected across the UK.

Oh, and I agree totally with Malcolm.

It’s good to know we can agree occasionally Malcolm and cheer up, I am suffering also from a very sore head today.

I agree lessons should have been learned from past overcrowded events, although on a much larger scale, such as Hillsborough and The Hajj.

I’ve just had an email from Which? publicising Black Friday. Should they need to do this? Isn’t it a bit of a hysterical shop to part people from their money, and increase their debt maybe, for things many of them may not need? Better, surely, to do shopping in a considered way.

One of their tips is to do all your shopping at John Lewis because they “price match”. This is much more difficult than it used to be because of the restrictions they have placed on it. Unless it is clearcut, my advice would be to get JLP to make a price match submission for you with all the details of the competitor first for approval before you buy. You might find if you buy first the price will not be matched. Probably not appropriate for Black Friday.

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I am sure the Black Friday message from Which? was not spam – I also received it and it is typical of the frequent alerts, ‘scoops’, trailers, and other announcements that are frequently sent to subscribers.

I think it is not necessarily good advice to do all your Black Friday shopping at John Lewis “because they price-match”. They only do that for the specific articles they sell, of course, and that is a fairly restricted range. In homewares, John Lewis do sell some ‘basic’ and ‘essential’ goods under their own brand but other shops sell similar branded or ‘own-label’ goods at lower prices. In consumer electricals they do sell some branded appliances at matched prices because they can buy direct from the manufacturer in much greater volumes than any other physical store, but again the choice is narrow and other shops might sell an equally good product by a different manufacturer at a lower price. ‘Badging’ manufacturer’s products with the John Lewis brand is another way of taking them out of the “never knowingly undersold” matching process as they are not identical; this is particularly the case with big ticket white goods and brown goods. That is not to say that these are not good value purchases but the best consumer advice remains: “Shop Around”.

I received this email too. It provides a link to 69 ‘Best Buy’ coffee machines, but many of these are the same machine in a variety of colours. That’s plain daft and I would expect Which? to reprimand a manufacturer for making a silly claim like this.

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Just out of interest, DL, did you scan the full email header? It’d be interesting to know the original sender.

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I think what you received, Duncan, must have been a phishing e-mail from a scammer using Which?’s URL to fool people. It sounds like a crude attempt and as we know millions of similar e-mails are distributed around the www every day. Because the bank scam has been comprehensively denounced and become unproductive for scammers they are moving on to other potentially plausible and more subtle covers for their activity, like charities, HMRC, travel operators, and other organisations which could reasonably seem likely to need the information requested. The scammers have no idea whether or not the recipients have any relationship with such spoof senders but if one in a hundred thousand is answered then they’re in the money. Reporting them to the purported host is probably a good idea but I have no particular confidence that much further action is taken other than registering the full issuing URL. I don’t suppose charities have the resources to investigate the millions that get sent out by fraudsters in their name. Personally I wouldn’t keep such an e-mail on my PC a second longer than necessary.

Morning all, thanks for your comments on Black Friday. Firstly, I’d like to confirm that the Black Friday email from Which? is not spam, this email is from us. It’s interesting to read your views on Black Friday, and we’ll have a nice convo up tomorrow so that you can share your thoughts on this shopping phenomenon (thanks to those of your who have already contributed to this).

The reasoning behind Which? wading into the Black Friday frenzy is because we want to help people make sensible decisions, find the good deals, and most importantly recognise the bad ones. We’re not trying to encourage people to spend their money on things they don’t need. We just want to equip people with all the information to spot the dud deals amongst the bargains. Our research team has compiled lots of info about how to navigate your way around Black Friday shopping if you are thinking of buying anything, all info can be found here: http://www.which.co.uk/deals

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Thanks, DL, but nothing is showing in Google. Not quite sure why the address was moderated. Surely this is in consumers’ interests?

Hi Ian, giving prominence to a scam email address on a public website isn’t great. I know it’s a warning, but hopefully the name should be enough for you to look out if you get anything in your inbox.

Again, we get thousands of spam comments every day. Sometimes one or two slip through – if you see one please report it to us and we’ll sort it. Cheers!

Okay – fair enough. Curiously, nothing was visible on a cursory scan. Anyway, as long as no damage has been done, I guess that’s fine.

It’s always worth pasting some of the text from a phishing email into a search engine to find out if it is a well known scam. It’s worth reporting what appear to be new scams. Banks and other financial services sometimes provide specific instructions.

The banks have actually been quite good and have whole departments dealing with attempted fraud. I am sure their efforts have put paid to a lot of the scams that used to circulate. Which?, as a sizeable organisation and with a specific remit for consumer support, needs to concern itself very seriously with what goes out in its name and the signs are that it does. People who book holidays on line are used to getting requests from the operator for additional information which is why those scams are ingenious but deadly.

Which? has alerted us to many scams, in the magazine and on Convo. I’ve never fallen for a scam and no-one I know has admitted to being a victim, though I know quite a few people who have lost money from accounts. Though I very much support raising awareness of scams, I would like to know common they are among people who are reasonably cautious.

Oh dear. We might get back on topic by Halloween. 🙁

I thought Patrick had surreptitiously manouevred this Conversation into the Black Friday phenomenon which has yet to pass.

Following the discussions, I decided to look for a Black Friday discount on an item generally advertised at £250 or above, which I was buying for a charity. Thanks to another forum I learned that a well known company had offered Black Friday savings in the past and sure enough, they have offered a 15% discount on everything in their catalogue. I then placed an order from another well known company that offers competitive prices throughout the year and made a worthwhile saving on the cost of the goods and even the cost of carriage.

I never did have much faith in sales.

Many “Sales” (well, some, I don’t know how many) including John Lewis revolve around “Special Purchases”. Just what are they? Presumably not normal stuff reduced, but stuff that may not be of such good quality bought in to be sold at a cheaper price to look like a bargain. But you may well just be getting what you pay for. Does anyone know more about the origin of “special purchases”? Perhaps Which? has, or could, look to see whether these are “better value”.

My understanding is that ‘Special Purchases’ are not normal stock items, they are often purchased in large numbers, and sold at relatively low price compared with similar products. Sometimes it is obvious that the product is older stock that has to be shifted before newer designs go on sale. I presume that goods are labelled as special purchases to draw attention to their low price, and it may well be worth checking reviews and how a product compares with the latest models.

Even if there is no catch, advertising bargains sells goods.

A classic one is special purchase bedding at John Lewis – sheets in particular. Just plain colours. Since JLP must sell sheets normally in large numbers I can’t see a “benefit of scale” applying, nor are they old stock. I wonder if they are just lower quality sheets sold at a lower price to attract custom, but not really “bargains”. Perhaps someone knows.

We cannot always tell whether something is “as described or implied” – i.e. a bargain. A different spec tv or kitchen appliance for example. attracting purchasers by a lower price when the value is also lower is not a bargain, and is to my mind mis-selling. But is this happening?

For as long as I can remember ‘special purchases’ have featured in retailers’ sales. I believe the practice started in the drapery trade and was common in department stores, most of which started life as drapers. It probably began with textiles and spread to other homewares, china and glassware, pans and cooking utensils, cutlery, and sometimes furniture. Many of the stores had close business relationships with particular mills and manufacturers and in order to maintain even production levels the manufacturers offered bales or sets of products at discounted prices for release in the winter and summer sales. For the suppliers it was a good way to use up excess raw materials and reduce overstocks as well as to clear the warehouse for new lines. The practice also transferred into mail order catalogues which frequently featured ‘special purchases’. Most of the production included in ‘special purchases’ was manufactured in the UK and if it carried the manufacturer’s brand or label it could usually be relied upon to be like-for-like in quality with normal stock, the special selling factor being the bale or set of articles that was indivisible. These ‘bales’ or ‘sets’, albeit comprising more than might be needed, usually cost considerably less than the sum of their parts. The trick was to get the customer to spend more than they might have done in order to buy better quality goods at a tempting price so that the manufacturer, the retailer and the shopper all came away happy. There would also be purchases of lower quality goods at even lower prices and most shoppers could tell the quality by the weight and feel of the product. I am not sure the bargains these days are as genuine as they once were. So many goods are imported today and come in by the container load, sight-unseen till they’ve landed, it is hard to believe that the buying acumen that depended on the close links between the mill or factory and the store is as refined today so trustworthiness and reliability have probably suffered. As Wavechange says, with electrical goods which go through so many iterations it is a case of clearing stock of previous models and they should be no different to the same model when first sold previously at full price. They could well have been overtaken by later models with a different design, colour range, or features. If that is not important and if functionality and performance are acceptable then some good bargains can be had.

With regard to bedding in John Lewis, they do go to some trouble to describe the products accurately and give the specification, so for sheets as an example, it is advisable to check the thread count, the type of material used, and the size to compare with other non-sale examples – so that you are not comparing a linen kingsize sheet with a poly-cotton double or an 800-thread count with a 200. In last January’s “clearance event” – they don’t have “sales”! – we bought some new Hungarian goose down pillows that were a ‘special purchase’ and, so far as we can tell, they are exactly the same as the regular line and the lower price gave us an opportunity to either buy more than we might otherwise have bought or trade up to a higher specification than otherwise. Having bought some new pillows at good prices it was a natural [but unintended] progression to buy some new pillow cases; these were marked as clearance items, and the only difference from current stocks is that the colours are no longer available [hardly a problem].

Duncan, Ian, and Beryl – please have a look in your inboxes. We’ve got your Conversation post on Black Friday ready to go up today ☺

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Great, thanks for letting me know.

Lauren received your email OK, many thanks and welcome to Which? Convo. Good coverage of both positive and negative aspects of Black Friday.

Thanks Beryl. The article will go live soon 🙂

Lauren: I’ve replied with a correction to what you sent me. The modified sentence in Paragraph 3 of my original submission doesn’t work as it is.


Thanks for the edit Ian, I’ve made the change back and the article will go live soon. Much appreciated 🙂