By Mark Hanrahan
LONDON (Reuters) – Halloween was once seen as frightfully vulgar by generations of Britons but now millennials are turning it into a retail bonanza.
Market research analysts Mintel estimate that consumer spending on Halloween will rise to 320 million pounds ($418 million) this year, a 3.2 percent rise on 2016.
Millennials are responsible for much of the growth – 60 percent of that demographic spent money on Halloween in 2016.
The figures reflect a market that has rapidly expanded since the turn of the century – spending on Halloween products in the UK was just 12 million pounds in 2001, according to market research company YouGov.
A 2013 YouGov poll found that 74 percent of Britons said they would not be celebrating Halloween on Tuesday.
This hostility has long been documented in the country’s media, with newspaper columns like last week’s “Call me an old witch but I hate Halloween,” in London’s Evening Standard being a longstanding seasonal fixture.
Experts say that many Britons’ antipathy to Halloween was caused by a lack of historical attachment, as well as the view that it was an invasive cultural import from the United States.
“The Scottish version of Halloween was an old Celtic festival,” Hugh O’Donnell, a professor of language and popular culture at Glasgow Caledonian University and author of a book about Halloween’s international appeal, told Reuters.
“England hasn’t been exposed to that kind of culture, the whole idea of Halloween is not only new, but their acquaintance of Halloween has not come from Scotland – it’s come from the United States.”
The lengthy queues building up outside some London costume emporia this year, as in recent years, attest to the event’s increasing acceptance in British popular culture.
“I never thought it could get any busier, but it literally got busier and busier and busier,” Andy Andreou, manager of London costume shop Angels, told Reuters with respect to the rise in Halloween trade over his 18 years of working there.
“The queues we have are ridiculous and people are happy to queue – I can’t tell you the enormity of it.”
Public relations manager Kyle Livingstone, at Angels to pick up a zombie costume, told Reuters that Halloween’s appeal was centered on “Just fun – it’s all about fun.”
(Additional reporting by Saskia O’Donoghue; editing by Mark Heinrich)