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In These Scary Times Halloween Likely to Be Treat for Retailers

Tuesday, 14 Oct 2008 | 3:29 PM ET

Tired of being spooked by the economy? Well, you’re not alone and that could be good news for retailers.

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More consumers are planning to celebrate Halloween this year as a way to escape from the glum realities of everyday, according to a recent survey by BIGresearch. The consumer market research group found 64.5 percent of survey respondents planned to celebrate compared with 58.7 percent last year.

"Though the economy is struggling, Halloween sales may be a bright spot for retailers this fall," said Tracy Mullin, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation. "Consumers—who have been anxious and uncertain for the past several months—may be looking at Halloween as an opportunity to forget the stresses of daily life and just have a little fun."

The group is estimating total Halloween spending could reach $5.77 billion this year, with the average person planning to spend about $67 on the holiday, up from nearly $65 a year ago.

The trend isn’t uncommon. In 2002, retailers saw strong spending on Halloween as consumers looked to let loose.

"It's become a celebratory event for adults," said George Whalin, of Retail Management Consultants. "It's become much less about the children."

And the timing of Halloween on Friday may encourage celebrating - and spending - even more.

This boost couldn’t come at a better time. Chain-store sales in September were pretty grim, with retailers seeing just a 0.8 percent increase in same-store sales, according to Thomson Reuters. Excluding Wal-Mart sales fell, 0.9 percent.

But don't see this boost in spending as a positive sign for the holiday season.

"I don't think it's a good indicator," Whalin said.

What does it cost to scare up a little fun?

BIGResearch estimates consumers will spend an average $24.17 on Halloween costumes, $20.39 on candy, $18.25 on decorations and $3.73 on greeting cards.

Questions? Comments? retaildetail@cnbc.com

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