The Washington Post

Scary spending on Halloween

Retail spending surged last month, and economists are suggesting that Americans may finally be ready to open their wallets again. If they have any doubts, they may want to ask a parent about the family’s Halloween plans ...

Halloween keeps growing and growing. (Eugene Garcia/AP)

The retail figures from U.S. Census data show an increase for “family clothing stores” alongside other beneficiaries.

Now, the push turns to Halloween, a single holiday that is becoming a month-long anticipatory shopping spree.

Retailers are in luck this year as the holiday falls mid-week, which allows the festivities to envelop the previous weekend as well.

My girls have at least three costume-centric parties leading up to their individual school celebrations and the trick-or-treating.Though I am known in my family as the cheapskate, I have been caught up in the coming whirlwind.

Each of my daughters has three options for a costume, though, I swear, four of those arrived in the mail as gifts and the other two are cobbled together amalgams of hand-me-downs and cheap new accessories. Still, it’s overkill.

Also, this year I purchased decorations for the first time. I am not a holiday decoration kind of gal, but something about my daughters’ enthusiasm (or marketers’ persuasion) has convinced me to pay good money for a garland of paper spiders and googly-eye stickers for pumpkins.

Judging from national trends, I am not alone here. Marketers have shrewdly convinced us that Halloween is not the new Christmas (Heaven knows marketers would never want to replace Christmas) but a sort of dress rehearsal for the mass-spending hysteria.

Matthew Shay, president of the National Retail Federation, has called Halloween “one of the fastest-growing and most widely loved holidays of the year.”

In fact, the NRF found in a recent survey that more than 70 percent of Americans, the most it has ever recorded in its 10 years of tracking such things, will participate in Halloween in some capacity this year.

The group also found that, on average, consumers are expected to spend close to $80 each on costumes, candy and decorations. I suspect many of those consumers who have kids are on the heavier side of the average scale.

After all, the Toy Industry Association released a video Monday from a Halloween-themed store wherein the proprietor helpfully showcases the excess — a several-eyed Mr. Potato head, multicolored tarantulas and costumes that include the most minute and gaudy detail to get kids “pumped” for the holiday.

TIA also provides a list of the hottest costumes this year, including a “formal” Merida costume from Disney’s “Brave” that retails for a hair under $50. And that’s not a red hair either, as this get-up does not include a red wig or the $20 archery set. (One other thing it’s missing — a good adhesive for the glitter, as purchasers have complained that the “hot” costume leaves a trail of sparkles.)

The NRF survey did note that just over a quarter of respondents said the economy would affect their spending this year. Some of those prudent folks said they’d cut back by making costumes as opposed to buying. More said they’d instead skimp on the candy-buying.

Perhaps that is why, Shay said in a statement accompanying the survey, retailers are focusing not on gummy bears but on the glitter and the garlands.

“Retailers know that when it comes to Halloween, new costume ideas for children, adults and pets, and the latest in home and yard decor top people’s shopping lists. We expect retailers to stock their shelves well ahead of time to capture the attention of eager holiday shoppers.”

What is your Halloween spending plan? Are you making or buying costumes this year?

Why do you think Halloween has become such big business in the U.S. retail industry?

Related content:

Halloween: The most sexist children’s holiday?

How to handle Halloween candy

Dressing our kids into bankruptcy


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