published Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Halloween: Really big business

  • photo
    Konner Ledbetter, 6, reaches to take off a costume mask inside Halloween Express while shopping with his family for halloween costumes Thursday. Halloween sales are projected to hit $6.86 billion because of an increase in shoppers and amount of money spent per shopper.
    Photo by Jenna Walker.
    enlarge photo

Are you dressing up for Halloween?

Not so long ago, Halloween was just another holiday among many on the nation's calendar. Kids, in particular, always looked forward to it, and they always took to neighborhood streets in search of candy and other treats. That was it -- a couple of hours of mostly good-natured and high-spirited fun with a nod or two toward ghosts, goblins and ghouls. Few adults, other than parents who made the rounds with their kids, were directly involved in the celebration. Things certainly have changed.

Nowadays, Halloween is a major holiday, with people of all ages wholeheartedly participating in a variety of activities. The Halloween spirit has become so widespread that it has become a significant contributor to the bottom line of many businesses. The National Retail Federation predicts that Americans will spend about $6.86 billion on Halloween-related items this season. That's the most recorded in the nine-year history of the federation's holiday survey.

Interestingly, much of the growth is being generated by older celebrants, whose costumes tend to be more elaborate than those of youngsters and whose penchant for home decorating and for sometimes elaborate theme parties is growing with each passing holiday season. That can produce big cash outlays. One example, retailers report that spending on Halloween decorations is now second only to what is spent on Christmas decorations.

Decorations, of course, aren't the only thing that prompts holiday cash flow. Americans, the federation survey indicates, will spend about $1 billion on kids' costumes and about $1.2 billion on costumes for adults. Even the family pet is included in the revelry. Consumers are expected to spend about $310 million on costumes for their pets this year. The numbers are positive. Retailers say costume sales this year will outstrip those of last year, despite the uncertain economy. Of course, there's more to holiday retailing than costumes and decorations.

A mainstay is candy -- the heart, soul and stomach (for the trick-or-treat crowd, at least) of the holiday. A lot of it will be sold before Halloween concludes. Sales of the sweet stuff are expected to top $1.1 billion this year. If that seems like a lot, it is. Candy sales at Halloween are higher than they are for any other holiday -- including Christmas and Valentine's Day.

Halloween, clearly, has become an event that involves the masses and big bucks. With thankfully few exceptions, it is now a happy holiday that emphasizes wholesome fun based on a good-natured view of ghosts, goblins, zombies and other spectral apparitions rather than the tricks once common to the evening. That's not all. At a time when the economy can use every little boost it can get, the continued increase in Halloween-inspired retail sales is especially welcome.

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