Consumers Not Too Spooked to Spend on Halloween

Frightened by the economic outlook? Haunted by fears about your job security? Don't worry Halloween is coming, and Americans are ready to get into the spirit, according to a new survey.

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In what is likely welcome news for retailers—especially all of those Halloween pop-up stores that appear to be everywhere these days—Americans plan to return to 2008 spending levels on candy and costumes after pulling back on spending last year.

Spending will rise to an average of $66.28, up from last year's $56.31 and comparable with the $66.54 spent in 2008, according to the results of a consumer survey done by BIGresearch for the National Retail Federation trade group.

With this increase, total spending for the holiday is expected to reach $5.8 billion.

The holiday is increasingly being celebrated by adults and children alike as "a welcome break from reality," said Matthew Shay, the NRF's president and CEO.

Although the biggest chunk of the Halloween budget will go toward purchasing candy to hand out to trick or treaters, more and more people are dressing up for the holidays and decorating. In fact, four out of every 10 people plan to wear a costume this year, up from 33.4 percent in 2009. That's the largest percentage in the history of this annual survey.

Since Halloween falls on a weekend, there will be a greater opportunity to celebrate. More than 33 percent said they would attend or throw a party, 46 percent will carve a pumpkin, and 20.8 percent plan to visit a haunted house.

Even dogs will be getting in on the act. For the first time, the NRF asked consumers if they would dress up their pet for the holiday, and 11.5 percent said they would.

Still, don't expect a full departure from the frugal consumer habits we've been seeing lately.

Three out of 10 consumers are saying that the economy is putting a damper on their Halloween plans, and there are signs that consumers are looking for ways cut corners. Some will buy less candy (45.1%), some will reuse last year's decorations (30.7%), others will reuse a costume (18.5%) or make a costume (19.5%). Others will cut back on traditional activities such as visiting a haunted house (22.3%).

Still, the trend has been for Halloween to get bigger and bigger every year.

Cheryl Kerzner, vice president of marketing for Disguise, a costume manufacturer owned by Jakks Pacific, said, "Early sales are very strong."

According to Kerzner, consumers have been getting "more savvy" about Halloween costumes, and they are choosing costumes with better fabric and style.

It's also likely that the proliferation of Halloween specialty stores is helping to encourage manufacturers to produce a more varied assortment for the season.

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