Saturday 10 October 2015

Countdown to Halloween: Wilkinson's Does Halloween

Yeah I'm still doing these, will be all month, sorry but I see so many of these for American stores (and enjoy reading 'em) that I want to get some of our boys in on the fun. 

I didn’t expect much in Wilkinson’s, sorry Wilko because they’re desperate to sound modern (I’m not calling them fucking Wilko, Wilko is the guitarist with Dr Feelgood). and as I entered I felt my general disdain for the store had been proven correct: the only thing visible from the entrance was a short and half-empty stand with some sweets, some not unimpressive but not exactly specular candles and a few pottery pumpkins, a half-assed ‘me too’ little attempt from a half-assed store that’s only good for picture frames and wicker baskets. I was so wrong and I am so sorry Wilkinson’s, they hadn’t just given over an isle to Halloween, they’d given over a whole part of the shop, though my initial distrust is still your fault Wilky, if your door wasn’t in such a weird place in Liberty 2 Mercury1 I could have seen how awesome you were, of course that would have ruined the fun of walking around going “there’s more! Oh my god there’s more!” but at least I wouldn’t feel guilty. I took a fair few pictures, even though the whole Halloween section was right in front of the tills no-one in Wilkinson’s gives a shit – about anything – because they’re working in Wilkinson’s, I spent what felt like ages excitedly snapping and I don’t’ think more than 1 employee looked my way, and he just shrugged and went back to serving, it wasn’t even a judgemental shrug.

From the disappointing opening display: Wilkinson’s has done that cheeky thing where they bulk out their Halloween sweets display with non-Halloween rebranded wares in the hope that in your excitement (or need to buy off annoying children) you’ll be excited by the Dip Dabs, Drumsticks and Love Hearts that have been in-store all year and sold fuck all. If they hadn’t produced a line-up of so many classic sweets I’d be rude about it, but seeing all these legendary teeth rotters in a line like its 1978 made me feel exceptionally happy. Their trick or treat pails suck but I would like to draw attention to the black one that has Jack Skellington on it, one eye replaced with an eye-patch to keep the lawyers away (original character, do not steal) . What most certainly does not suck is the selection of non-Cadbury’s Halloween candy they had on show, Maynard’s, Nestle, M & M’s, Fruit Shoot and Monster Munch (not shown in this photo, you can see ‘em in the next one) have all put the effort in this year, or maybe last year, some of this is undoubtedly left over stock, that’s the way Wilkinson’s works. I didn’t buy any M&M’S Spooky Colours and I thoroughly regret that – M&M’s in gross green and pumpkin orange with their packaging skilfully transformed into an evil face with those same monstrous M&M’s busting from its orifices? I was a fool not to snap them up.

The Disappointing First Impression!
Or ‘Halloween for the would-be Middle-Classes’, for the imaginary American readers this is actually a pretty good example of the shit Wilkinson’s sells, minus the wicker baskets - rustic feeling cheap ‘pottery’ and candles in poncey packets - and the sort of state of their shelves on a normal day, half empty and uninspiring. Maybe that’s why they chose to lead with this shit rather than all the awesome they had further back and around the other side, didn’t want to scare off the regular punters with anything to ‘different’ or ‘fun’. BUT, in the cause of fairness they do have candles shaped like human hands that from a distance seem quite convincing and I think we should all take a few seconds to enjoy the cute pumpkin drinking flasks peering out from around the Halloween balloons like mischievous ragamuffins.

Things Get Better!
Set diagonally back from the disappointing little set-up was a second display, under the generic heading of ‘Party Decorations’ when it should have been under the heading of ‘Holy Shit Who Said Wilkinson’s Could be This Awesomely Macabre?’ Everything in this shot is gold from the huge poseable fluffy spiders in the bins to the peel-off-and-stick-on bloody hand print but I would like all attention drawn to the opened-mouthed zombie decal if you would; that is a toilet seat sticker (sorry a CREEPY Toilet Seat Sticker, according got the packaging) these aren’t a new thing but they are wonderful and I think this is the best one I’ve seen, you stick it on your toilet lid and it looks like a zombie is coming out the pan to bite your genitalia off (and presumably turn them in zombie genitals) not only is that the right amount of funny and terrifying that Halloween should be but the drawing itself, while fairly cartoony, is just so needlessly and wonderfully gruesome, John the Toilet Zombie is missing an eye and has a whole section of his rotted green skin missing exposing fresh muscle and tendons. Subtle is nice folks but when making Halloween decorations there is no such thing as ‘over the top’ (actually I like a mixture, which in today’s market actually exists in most stores, we are truly living in a golden age).  

Thing Get Amazing!
As Essex’s leading (and possibly only) Plastic Skeleton Connoisseur I just about came when I saw this, nearly everything here is set back a little and was totally blocked out by the hanging decorations of the previous paragraph so this was a total shock and what a good shock. Let it be an official decree from a Plastic Skeleton Connoisseur – Wilkinson’s own brand ‘Halloween Spooktacular’ skeletons are THE SHIT. The fact that they’ve brought out a whole range of plastic skeletons in different sizes and price points like they were fucking Transformers or something alone! Those heads and arms form a ‘buried alive skeleton’, you shove the skull on a spike and then shove the spike in the dirt and voila a skeleton emerging from your flowerbeds, I know these ‘grave buster’ type decorations are pretty popular in America where Lawn Haunts are all the thing (apparently vandals take the whole of October off in America, they don’t even take Christmas Day off ‘round here) but I don’t see ‘em very often in the UK outside of the odd trying-to-be-hip Garden Centre – Wilkinson’s does dabble in garden furniture so it makes sense they’d put one out in their own line (again, nice to see even Wilkinsons getting in on the own-brand Halloween line, makes me feel very confident about how accepted Halloween has become), I just bring it up because I feel more included now. AND, AND, AND – life size plastic skeleton! Own brand life-size plastic skeleton! For under £20 (it was £15)! With this they jumped from ‘better put something out I suppose’ to ‘Halloween gods’.

These Things!
The fuck are these? They were hung between the Skeletons and the hanging decorations but… I'm sure they weren’t there the first time I went into the shop (I went back to pick up some stuff I didn’t want to carry all around Romford) they just appeared and I wasn’t sure if anyone else could see them. These are some of the most disturbing things this season, it’s the way the manufactures have manged to get the fabric to suck into the mouth and eye sockets, it really looks like these things have suffocated in there, and they make a noise and jiggle too! I didn’t buy any, I don’t want them in my house; I had this unshakable sense that bring them into your home would be akin to playing with Ouija Board.  
And then ‘round the corner

Halloween Mood Table!
If you don’t know what a Halloween Mood Table is, go to Dinosaur Dracula (who am I talking to?), obviously this isn’t
really a mood table it’s just a central display but it reminded me of one and that made me happy inside, especially as I’m currently living in a house that would never allow me to make a mood table (or put up a Buried Alive Skeleton for that matter). It’s the usual Wilkinson’s central display, half empty, arranged like someone had just dropped all the stuff and then left because someone couldn’t find the wicker basket they wanted (which is probably what happens) but just by having a central display like this and giving so much floor space over to their Halloween Spooktacular line Wilkinsons – bloody Wilkinsons, sellers of seeds, wicker baskets, poncey candles and cheap hair care products – has put more effort into Halloween than Asda, Sainsbury’s or Tescos, the three biggest supermarkets in the country – bloody madness. The trick or treat bowls look fun, and as they only light up (I think) they might actually work for more than 35 minutes, the witches meanwhile I couldn’t find anywhere else in-store, in fact I became unsure if they were actually for sale or not and then became self-conscious, I was quite keen to buy them because their faces make them look like animatronics from a dark ride. Oh well, I’ll just have to rob the Haunted Mansion s’more next time I go.

Coffin Display!
Wilkinson’s really are shaming the other stores at the moment, dotted all around the central display – which I’d like to point out is the very centre of the store and by the tills, some of the primest of prime real estate shop floor wise (at least it always feels that way, I’m guessing right by the entrance is the very prime real estate) – was these five-foot card coffin displays. They’re not branded with any particular item so I’m led to believe that Wilkinson’s just had these made purely for their Halloween displays, when did Wilkinson’s become ‘my man’? All of them were just filled with boxes of Halloween candy of various kinds which just about made them perfect things and allows me to talk about the Maynard’s Halloween Mix. I should really do a proper post on these, which are basically Wine Gums shaped like horrific things, but I hate this new style of packaging, we had some of their regular versions of this style of ‘gift set’ for Christmas (Jelly Babies and Bassett’s All-Sorts) and everything that makes these boxes cool is on a plastic wrap around the same plain featureless, quadrupole amputee plastic jelly baby tub; they do open at the bottom so you can re-use ‘em without ruining the wrap but one fuck up and the coolness of the whole thing is ruined with one tear. I’m sure it’s better value for money on Maynard’s end as they only had to tool one plastic container but for the deluxe sets like these I want tubs that are properly shaped like the mascots, so I haven’t bought a tub and I’m not going to. Having marvelled at their centre display I turn to see what else than have and…

Things Get Thorough!
This is where I felt really guilty about instantly writing off Wilkinson’s Halloween selection when I came in, the other side of the this isle was showed they were capable of being awesome but this side showed just how all-in they’d gone with their range. As well as a wall of costumes-in-a-bag they had just about everything they could think of that you might want for the making of Halloween costumes all packaged under their Halloween Spooktacular brand. Sure it’s all just stuff you can find anywhere else but I’m talking about dedication here, this is only a segment of this display (Which was on the back of the hanging/skeleton displays) and from it alone you can make the call that Wilkinson’s really went for it with the Halloween products. For someone looking for affirmation that Halloween had been accepted this was great but it also put Wilkinson’s in a new light, even if they did have Slutty costumes (but then who doesn’t?). I’m especially fond on their deluxe masks here, the clown is downright terrifying and the bat/werewolf hybrid is nearly as nice as Asda’s wolfs.

Slutty Costumes!
Speak of the devil and it shall appear. Halloween Spooktacular has a lot of the standard ‘sexy versions’ in their costume-in-a-bag line, I took this one just because one of the few Slutty Costumes I really like is dead/undead Alice and I knew I would invariably make numerous references to Slutty Costumes and thought I should actually at least include some on the blog. I will admit that a lot of Halloween Spooktacular brand costumes do pivot on the line between sexy and slutty though (I thought the Sorceress in this picture was particularly nice).

The Most Terrifying Children’s Costume Yet!
Our Wilky’s has a whole end of isle capped with kids costumes-in-a-bag, I have no children nor know anyone who has kids old enough for these things so I don’t pay them much attention – EXCEPT THIS! This is fucking terrifying! It gets a little less cary when you get up close and see the fur is just printed on a setoff pyjamas but when are you going to get that close to a trick or treating child – unless you’re a very ballsy paedophile you’re going to see this in the dark/half-light from down the street and you could be completely forgiven for thinking that it was in fact, a 2 foot werewolf. Look at the mask on it, snarling, blood stained, hollow eyed, realistic fur fear-provoking. Have you seen the episode of Buffy called ‘Halloween’? In it everyone comes their costumes and a bunch of kids become little monsters, this is what this reminds me of, only more likely to make you double-take and think ‘nah, can’t be real’.

Having exhausted myself via excitement and trying to find the price on the possibly-only-for-show witches I left Wilkinson’s with a new appreciation for it and a body full of Halloween spirit, and a life-size plastic skeleton…I totally bought that life-size plastic skeleton:

I shall leave you with this picture of Nestle’s Halloween edition Mini-Smarties box, featuring the most insanely happy pumpkin they could draw, if this thing had tits it would be off them, it is positively DELIGHTED to be filled with Mini-Smarties and it makes me smile, a-thank-you.      

1 Really, the entrance is a big opening where the bottom left hand corner of the shop would be, it’ s so odd. Technically it’s probably Sainsbury’s fault as they were there first and I think were there from when Liberty 2 (now called Mercury apparently) was built, but that ruins my rant.    

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