Thursday, October 22, 2009

Halloween is homeless

Halloween has never been big in New Zealand, despite the best efforts of retailers, a few ex-pat Americans and other enthusiasts. I suppose part of it is that Kiwis didn’t grow up with it, so it’s kind of alien. Maybe as a result of that, some people are suspicious of retailers pushing to have Kiwis adopt a foreign custom.

To me, it looks like in the time since I moved to New Zealand, in some years retailers have put on a major push, nothing much happened, they stopped for awhile. Then, they tried again, nothing happened again, and they stopped. We seem to be in another stopped period. So far—only about a week away—I haven’t seen any Halloween displays in stores (I’m going to have a special look tomorrow).

We just got the sale flyer for The Warehouse, a major retailer. Their 20 pages promote the chain’s “Massive Labour Weekend Sale” (Monday is the Labour Day Holiday in New Zealand). Out of those twenty pages, exactly one half of one page has Halloween items. At the very bottom of the page—with camping gear between it and the Halloween products—is a banner that reads: “The Home of Halloween – Monster Range! Wicked Bargains!” If The Warehouse is the home, no one lives there.

New Zealand’s Australian-owned Kmart chain put out its own 16-page flyer containing absolutely nothing related to Halloween—but it has three-quarters of a page devoted to Christmas decorations.

I saw a report on the evening news about NZ retailing in another context, and they mentioned that the Christmas selling season begins this weekend. That actually probably explains a lot: Retail stores tend to make most of their annual profits during the Christmas season, so it figures that they wouldn’t give up floor space or advertising budgets to promote something that Kiwis have shown a resounding indifference to.

All of which means that this could be among the last posts I write about Halloween in New Zealand. I'm not quite sure whether that's a trick or a treat, actually.

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