Trick or treat or books

The pre-school bestsellers for recent weeks show a clash of the festive seasons, much like any retail outlet at this time of year, with Halloween books rising to the top of the chart but Christmas books nipping at their heels. In the Halloween corner, Allan & Janet Ahlberg’s classic ‘Funnybones’ has experienced its annual climb up the pre-school chart, but this year has been surpassed by new entry ‘The Dinosaur that Pooped Halloween!’ by Tom Fletcher & Dougie Poynter, based on sales for the four weeks ending 22 October 2022. Nine of the top ten books for that time either directly mention Halloween in the title or have to do with witches and monsters and ghosts (oh my), compared to six for the same weeks in 2021, as shown below.

And what of those Christmas books already carving a place in the charts? Last year actually had more within the top ten, thanks to two advent calendars, but that’s dropped down to only one for 2022, ‘The Gruffalo and Friends Advent Calendar’…although Julia Donaldson’s Halloween-adjacent ‘The Baddies’ ranks higher for the month, so we’re not jumping too far ahead in the calendar just yet.

If we narrow down to just those books with specifically Christmas and Halloween in the title, the former comes out on top, with more than 700 individual ISBNs selling 200,000 copies altogether, compared to 146,000 in volume sales for Halloween books. Part of that will be reflecting just how many more Christmas books there are, with only 160 ISBNs containing ‘Halloween’ in the title, but of course there will be plenty more featuring spooky characters, or the word spooky itself as evidenced by ‘101 Spooky Bums’!

That does point to less competition for Halloween books, but they also come with a narrower window of popularity – the Halloween shopping season isn’t quite the same as the Christmas one! If we compare similar titles across the two holidays, in this case two longstanding books by Allan & Janet Ahlberg as well as two new seasonal ‘Peppa Pig’ books, we can see how the Christmas titles, shown in green, start building up earlier, whereas the Halloween books track a more rapid ascent. While ‘Peppa’s Jingle Bells’ sold 10,000 copies more than ‘Peppa’s Happy Halloween’ for the year, it never quite matched the highest weekly sales of the latter; it did, however, bank nine weeks with at least 1,000 copies, compared to only six for the Halloween book, pointing to that longer shopping period.

The same message doesn’t necessarily apply to ‘Funnybones’ vs ‘The Jolly Christmas Postman’, as the former tends to sell throughout the year and fittingly experiences its highest numbers around Halloween. But ‘The Jolly Christmas Postman’ sold more than 2,000 copies in one extra week compared to ‘Funnybones’ and saw a much more gradual incline to its 10,000 copy peak, while ‘Funnybones’ went from 2,000 to 12,000 copies in just two weeks.

Even with fewer weeks of prominence, Halloween books are of course still popular! Pre-school books with ‘spooky’ in the title sold 81,000 copies over the four-week period to 22 October 2022, compared to 63,000 in 2021. Pumpkin books also saw a jump, going from 26,000 to 45,000 year-on-year, led by new releases ‘Peekaboo Pumpkin’ and ‘The Pumpkin Who Was Afraid of the Dark’. Adding together books with titles containing words like monster, witch, ghost, pumpkin and spooky along with the specific Halloween books puts sales at 300,000 for four weeks, about 10% of the overall pre-school sector, and that’s even without the week directly before Halloween. So plenty of people are embracing the spooky book season before diving into their Christmas shopping!

Based on data from the BookScan UK Total Consumer Market (TCM) covering weeks 39 to 42 for 2021 and 2022. For more information, please contact