The Fancy Dress Phenomenon


The Fancy Dress Phenomenon

Did you celebrate Halloween? Chances are you did in some manner, shape or form as it’s been estimated that approximately half of the UK population spent money on Halloween related items. Whether this be by donning a full on fancy dress costume, decorating your home or simply giving a nod to the date with some ghoulish biscuits or sweets.

In terms of retail drivers Halloween is now one of the UK’s biggest retail events - estimated to be third in terms of consumer spend behind only Christmas and Easter. We here in the UK have fully embraced the American import, so much so that it’s now overtaken St Valentine’s Day in terms of popularity.

In 2013, when we first launched the Mallzee app, it was estimated by Mintel, that the UK retail value for Halloween was £230 million and in the four years to 2016 this grew 35% to £310 million and 2017s figures (not yet confirmed) are predicted to rise even further. This retail figure covers all aspects of Halloween but by far the largest growth in this sector has been in our penchant for dressing up.


Infact according to our Mallzee Insights data there has been a 31% increase in Halloween products available from 2016 to 2017.

Halloween costumes here in the UK traditionally fall into three categories;
Popular culture led - fictional characters - 2017s most popular were Pennywise the clown from IT, Stranger Things characters and Wonder Woman
Humerous - Snapchat Emojis and Donald Trump were trending this Hallowed
Traditional Halloween - witches, zombies etc

Retailers understand the importance of the timing of Halloween as it falls at the start of the Christmas build up period - therefore those prospering over Halloween enter the Christmas trading period with positive brand sentiment.

Fancy dress is no longer simply the preserve of October its increasing in popularity as an all year round option. It’s a well documented feature of economic downturns that people seek escapism and nostalgic entertainment - think of all the period dramas now on our screens, the 1950s homemaking programmes and also the increase in themed parties - everything from film themed, to 70’s to masked events.

Mallzee Insights Data is based on high street fashion retailers and brands and fancy dress costumes have, for want of a better description, become mainstream in 2017 - there has been a massive 120% increase in costume related items in 2017 compared to 2016. It’s worth noting that this is for adult costumes and doesn’t include childrens’ outfits.

Looks like dressing up is here to stay and is no longer reserved for children and Halloween. Infact it is one mode of outfit that appeals to all - even the current doyenne of Britishness, Kate Reardon, editor of Tatler says;

“I think to me, the sheer joy of fancy dress is that it allows you to take a break from our very carefully considered and constructed identities,” says Kate Reardon, editor of Tatler and a fancy-dress enthusiast. “It represents infinite freedom: a backlash against everyone being a bit po-faced and uptight. When did you last have fun being dignified?”

Mallzee Insights
Nov 21, 2017

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