The Business of Halloween

The Business of Halloween

Halloween has been a part of western culture
for a long time, but its meaning and importance changed drastically over the course of the
20th century. So how did this Christian holy day become
such an enormous and commercialized social event? Today we’re heading down the basement stairs
to uncover the horrifying secrets of how Halloween became commercialized. This video is brought to you by Hover, the
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domain or email. October 31st is actually one of the oldest
celebrations in existence and originated as the last day of the Celtic calendar, called
Samhain, meaning “summers end”. It was a day to honor the dead, as well as
a harvest festival. When Christianity came to the British Isles
and Northern Europe, where the Celts lived, many pagan festivals were rebranded as Christian
ones and October 31st became All Hallows Eve, since the following day was All Saints Day. The traditions of the previous festival, however,
stuck around, like the idea of leaving out small gifts for the ghosts to keep your home
protected, as well as dressing up in special outfits. The holiday took a while to grow in America
and it didn’t really emerge until the wave of Irish immigration caused by the Irish Potato
Famine from the late 1840s. By the early 20th century, however, most of
the the ghoulish, spooky elements like fortune telling and ghost stories were dropped. In most ways, Halloween had become a secular
family holiday, with parades and community events. It wasn’t until the baby boom of the 1950s
that it really became a big thing for kids, with trick or treating and all that. Over the second half of the 20th century Halloween
grew to become the most important holiday after Christmas, particularly from a commercial
point of view and in 2016, Americans spent almost $8.5 billion during the holiday. But how did it become so commercialized and
where is the money going? A survey from the National Retail Federation
showed that in 2016, around $3 billion went on costumes, $2.5 billion on candy, a similar
amount on decorations and then $400 million on greeting cards. And which company has a finger in all of these
pumpkin flavored pies? Walmart. They are the single biggest Halloween advertiser,
spending $13.8 million during the 2016 Halloween season. They’re certainly not the only driving force
behind the holiday, but it’s more than likely that the first sign of Halloween approaching
will be seen in one of their stores. What’s more, they are going to get the knock-on
benefit of advertising from many of the brands they sell, such as Skittles, Cheetos and Lunchables,
all of which are also prolific advertisers. Walmart also stock the three giants of Halloween:
Mars, Hershey’s and Rubies. You probably know the first two. One of Hershey’s brands is America’s favorite
candy with over $500 million in sales annually. And for the candy industry in general, including
Mars, about 8% of all sales come from Halloween. But who are Rubies? Rubie’s Candy Store was opened in Queens,
New York back in 1951. During the 1950s they expanded into selling
decorations and costumes, which eventually became the core of their business. By 1972 the company was called Rubie’s Costumes
and was making some of the most high-quality replica costumes in the US. This coincided with a new trend in America:
In the early 70s, Halloween costume demand changed rapidly from the traditional ghosts
and witches, to icons of the silver screen and comic book heroes. Big deals with Disney, DC comics and Marvel
were cut early on by another company, Ben Cooper, while Rubie’s main rival, Collegeville,
made Star Trek costumes and characters from various Warner Brothers cartoons. Rubie’s would have never caught up if it
weren’t for a national tragedy. In 1982, 7 people died mysteriously in the
Chicago area and it was found that someone had been putting lethal doses of cyanide in
Tylenol capsules, a popular painkilling drug. People were terrified, especially as the killer
was never discovered, so they became mistrustful of many consumables, including candy. For several years Halloween sales were abysmal,
and many companies in the industry just failed. Rubies, though, had a lot of money in the
bank and survived, and in the 1990s they purchased what little remained of Ben Cooper and Collegeville,
securing almost complete control over the world of licensed costumes. The movie studios were also big winners here. With costumes, they usually take a 8% cut
of the retail price, which can amount to millions of dollars without really having to do anything. Of course, they do have to let Rubie’s into
their inner circle. The costume company is given sketches of movie
characters before the studio even starts shooting, sometimes as much as two years in advance. Studios even give them basic plot details,
so they can work out which characters are likely to be popular. They started doing that after a misunderstanding
on Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, where Rubie’s over produced costumes for Darth Maul because
George Lucas forgot to mention that he’d shamelessly kill the best character in the
whole movie. Today Rubie’s are like the fortune tellers
of American pop culture. They look at the movie industry, video games
and politics to figure out which costumes will be popular. So, when October comes and customers rush
into Sears and Walmart, they see the Wonder Woman outfit, the Donald Trump mask, the Pokémon
suit and think “yeah, that’s just what I wanted”. Now, if you look at the tangled web of Halloween
promotion, it’s difficult to say that any one company is behind it all. It’s likely, though, that Walmart are the
biggest winners, since they are the point of sale for almost every type of Halloween
purchase. And Walmart are actually doing a lot more
than you might believe. This video has been largely about the US,
but what about other countries? In the UK, Halloween has risen to become the
3rd biggest holiday after Christmas and Easter, surpassing Valentine’s Day. Just like in the US, costume and candy sales
are on the rise, as is advertising. This trend began at the turn of the new millennium,
right around the time when Walmart bought the second largest supermarket chain the UK,
ASDA. In Japan, Halloween was almost non-existent
back then but now it’s gaining real traction. Coincidentally, Walmart bought a big stake
in Japanese supermarket Seiyu in 2003, and had completely taken it over five years later. Considering just how much power supermarkets
have over what people see during their lives, we should give Walmart at least a little bit
of credit. In any case, Halloween isn’t going anywhere
and, in fact, it’s most likely only going to get bigger in the future. Now, if you feel really festive this Halloween
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head on over to Doing so will not only get you a 10% discount,
but will also help us to continue making high quality videos. Of course, I want to give huge thanks to all
our patrons on Patreon and to you for making it this far. Make sure to follow Business Casual on Facebook,
Twitter and Reddit, and as always: stay smart.

Comments (100)

  1. Christian "holiday" yeah no. Christians hate it

  2. I spotted your hidden traps

  3. 5:34– And Star Wars: The Clone Wars brought him back with spider legs.

  4. Also don't forget various online games' promotions like WoW, Terra, Guid Wars, TF2, Overwatch, and Wildstar.
    Well, it's not as large as supermarkets but it did create some form of promotions.

  5. Boy, if you think Halloween is commercialized, Christmas is way, way worse. Thanksgiving? What Thanksgiving? It's Christmas time, yo! Seriously, I've seen a store that put Christmas stuff on July.

  6. stupid question everything is commercializable

  7. There’s a large amount of traps hidden in this video

  8. I love that its commercialized because without it we would never know how many things can be made sexy. Its like every year is a Project Runway challenge where companies have to figure out what random things can they turn sexy.

    Corn? Napkin? Air? Bert and Ernie? THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS NOW!

  9. Just curious… Do you ever say the word "is"?… I swear you must say "are" for everything despite it sounding awkward

  10. My parents never let me celebrate Halloween as they thought it satanic

  11. A hate Halloween and Valentin because of that

  12. That whole middle column of domains though.

  13. Who’s rushing into Sears?

  14. i hate how basically all costumes are movie and comic characters

  15. Fun fact: Ben Cooper actually had a costume called "Spider-Man" before Marvel's Spider-Man appeared. There was no backstory to go along with it and it only vaguely resembled the more familiar character but it existed.

  16. How Halloween became commercialized?


  17. could you please do video on the Australian car brand Holden

  18. I live in Collegeville and I go by that building all the time! Had no idea it had such a long history.

  19. i appreciate youtr hardworki for placing the traps

  20. OK, I learned something about all that Rubies stuff. I grew up with my mother sewing me my costumes, and went on to learn to create custom prosthetics. I never examined the commercial costume industry at all. Getting concept art as much as 2-years in advance is pretty friggin' mind-blowing. As a costume fabricator, I'd kill for that level of advanced insight into the new hip thing to have it ready in time for a good topical costume. That's a fun thing to daydream about.

    It makes sense for Japan to happily adopt Halloween, because they've loved cosplay long before that.

  21. Because north americans run out of reasons to have a party?

  22. I love all of your videos but this one is so interesting as it's not just focused on a single business. (Not that I don't love that – just the diversity is great.) I would really love to see something on the booming industry of sci-fi/comic conventions. They are HUGE businesses now with more and more smaller conventions popping up. Someone has to be making a lot of dough. If you would consider this topic I would be most grateful. At any rate, keep up the great work.

  23. Who here is getting a Trump mask and suit.

  24. No mention of spirit halloween? That's a staple of halloween!

  25. Pronunciation : Samhain is pronounced so-'ween. Ghoulish is pronounced 'goo-lish.

  26. You have very great videos. Where do you edit your videos and what kind of mic do you use?

  27. Why do other countries celebrate Western festivals and never the other way around?

  28. why are there so many anime girls?

  29. Awesome video Business Casual. The power of story telling is enormous. Most people rarely question how events like halloween started but most probably have watched halloween movies . They just go with the flow and that's how people end up paying for these invented and branded holidays.

  30. Nice video as always 🙂 These videos are always so interesting to watch!

  31. 3:41 that anime reference with that trap you so love

  32. Of all the American holidays, I think Halloween is by far the best: it promotes the spread and diversity of culture. The other holidays are all about focusing on family, religion, or nationalism.

  33. Amazon will take Walmart out

  34. Random anime "girl" at: 1:10 , 3:38

  35. What with your obsession of felix

  36. more meta things like this please. love your channel by the way.

  37. Christian Holliday….

  38. 3:12 Reese's puffs Reese's puffs…

  39. Awesome video! thank you for this one! 😀

  40. Y'all seeing Halloween props in store already while I already saw Christmas ones in a local ikea-like store

  41. Fuck this bullshit , globalized commercial holidays are trying to bring down real local holidays and traditions.

  42. wtf do i need a website for halloween?

  43. christian holiday!? rofl. more like satanic.

  44. Hop Tu Naa in the Isle of Mann. older than halloween

  45. I am so glad we never go to walmart because its horrible.

  46. "Samhain" is not even mentioned in a U.S. paper until the late 1890s, yet Halloween celebrated there since (at least) the 18th C. Halloween is exactly what it says: a mighty Medieval Christian festival of the dead & at the heart of Halloween ritual lies a huge & forgotten social fact of our Christian past: begging & alms-giving. The root of 'disguise'. We dress up not to avert evil or ward off the dead (later post-Reformation gothic accretions), but to beg food & alms from obligated elites. It is the 'modernising' actions of monastery dissolution & enclosure which isolate the elites, condemn vagrancy by Poor Law & kill Halloween. Some of the last, 'haunted' guisers in early modern lit are Lear, the Fool & Poor Tom—unaccommodated man, victim of the 'new' vagrancy laws. "Samhain" doesn't appear in Australian newspapers until the early 1900s. The #Halloween/Samhain conflation due to Gaelic revivalists.

  47. HAHAHAHA. Did it become commercialized!?!?!? This is America… all cunts here do is commercialize.

  48. Nice to see you have second best girl in the video

  49. Because our culture is commercialized.

  50. I'm so happy this shit isn't a thing in my country

  51. You can inly say halloween was a christian holliday if at the time witches were burned instead of celebrated

  52. 0:53 Holy crap, this image is from a book is used to read all the time when I was a kid. It was a nonfiction picture book telling the story of an ancient european town as it grew from a few huts into a huge city. I wish I could remember the name of it.

  53. Why is Felix hidden in every video?

  54. So… that's why darth maul is so famous after all!

  55. Capitalism, ripping off catholic traditions since 0 BC

  56. Care to explain that anime cat person on some of the backgrounds?

  57. Well, not first time business promotes things they feed on. Like "chocolate day" in japan, when boygirls gift each other chocolate to hint their feelings and so on – this "tradition" was completely constructed by japanese candy producers to increase sales….

  58. Dude you need to learn how to pronounce halloween correctly.

  59. someone likes traps…

  60. Who still shops at Sears? Especially for Halloween stuff!

  61. Anybody else see Felix?

  62. It would be awesome to see if you could do a video on how music is produced today. Like I’ve always wondered why artists sign with major record companies when they don’t need a record deal to produce music

  63. There's nothing Christian about Halloween. Even to this day Churches are generally not fans of it, they just put up with it. Unlike a lot of other pagan festivals, this one stayed pagan.

  64. It was commercialized because we live in a capitalistic world. Anything that can be, will be commercialized.

  65. I love the name ASDA, it sounds like a keystroke of a dodging FPS player.

  66. Could you make a video on the UK based educational company "Pearson PLC"?

  67. Do video of Nokia!!

  68. Halloween is probably the most occidental Holiday…

  69. Really like the way your introduced the holiday and it's social impact/development before highlighting its effect on industry and specific businesses. Great work!

  70. There are even some people who are trying to get Halloween popular in Russia. We call them autistic.

  71. When one can make more money by commercialise festivals, the "greedy capitalists" would definitely do so. So, happy Halloween-shopping-spree day!

  72. Everything famous is comoursilized

  73. Can you please do an episode about Kellogg’s cereal

  74. Can you do a video on shots studios?

  75. When did this channel become commercialized?

  76. Wow Walmart is the first monopoly in the US

  77. I see, you're a man of culture as well

  78. This year in the UK I think they've skipped Halloween and gone straight to Christmas

  79. I'm a simple man, when I see a cat person, I smile

  80. 3:38 why is there an anime girl?

  81. Who else knows from which book that picture is from? 0:54

  82. hopefully you will like this video as well

  83. No one rushes into sears.


  85. 0:11 it isnt a christian holiday…. its a celtic holiday…. quite pagan tbh

  86. Just like Christmas day!

  87. We now prepare to take our kids trick-or-treating after eating turkey and wrapping Christmas presents. Stores put up Christmas displays in August and squeeze in Halloween displays wherever they can. Holidays are now all about profit.

  88. Halloween 2018 watchers, unite! 😆

  89. Commercial Winners = Wal-Mart, other stores and China's manufacturing/exporter of most (all) goods sold for holloween.

  90. Last year Walmart acquired Flipkart (India's and this year we could see the rush of Halloween at least in Mumbai region. So partly Walmart is making this festival go international.

  91. I'm from Argentina. We don't celebrate Halloween, some people tries to install it aa a commercial celebration but it doesn't catch our attention.

  92. Exactly 3:29 Are some of those kids wearing blackface???

  93. OK, but $400 million on Halloween greeting cards?! Is that really a thing people do?

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