As Halloween and other festivities approach, Japan and China’s online retail sector has experienced unprecedented levels of activity.

With Halloween sales once again set to break records, the importance of seasonal activity and promotions for retailers around the world has grown in recent years.

The phenomenal rise of Halloween spending in the UK, particularly since the onset of the economic downturn, is a much-cited example of how events have been seized on both by retailers in desperate need of a sales boost and by consumers in need of seasonal cheer.

The spread of US culture through traditional and social media is, of course, an important driver of consumer interest, but retailers have had to adapt and localise events to maximise the benefit.

In Japan, for example, the poor economic climate and deteriorating consumer sentiment this year has led to unprecedented levels of Halloween retail activity.

With confectionery consumption traditionally much lower than in the US or UK, the focus here is much more on fancy dress, which is playing to the strengths of leading discount chain Don Quijote and online retailers such as Rakuten. launched its Halloween Special 2014 in early September, with a massive 500,000 SKUs. According to the retailer, sales of ‘cosplay’ costumes for women and girls in particular are performing strongly, as mothers tend to celebrate Halloween with their children. Amazon Japan is also getting involved and its Halloween Store features more than 100,000 items.

Just around the corner, however, is the seasonal event that took the retail world by storm last year. China’s ecommerce shopping festival, Singles Day or 11.11, generated sales of CNY35bn (£3.54bn), with 170 million orders placed in just one day.

Once Alibaba got involved six years ago, 11.11 quickly took off and it has become China’s most important annual shopping day.

This year promises another set of mind-blowing stats. as the country’s economic slowing has weighed heavily on retailers’ performance, the festival becomes more important to retailers and even more e-‘doorbusting’ deals are expected.

Reports suggest retailers operating online shops on Taobao and Tmall have prepared more inventory than last year and some courier firms are expecting double the traffic. Another reason to support a positive expectation for the event is that bricks-and-mortar retailers are joining the party this year, in a bid to wrest customers back from the online channel.

  • Matthew Stych, research director, Asia Pacific, Planet Retail