Consumer IQ

The Scariest Part of Halloween: Consumer Spending

Are you ready to hear a spooky Halloween story that is truly creeptastic? According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend nearly $7 billion this year on Halloween, making it the third largest holiday behind Christmas and Valentine’s Day. To give you an idea of just how scary that figure is, in 2005 consumers planned on spending just over $3 billion. So, why the dramatic increase and what does all that Halloween spending money go towards?

A Look at the Numbers

The 2011 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey conducted by BigResearch on behalf of the National Retail Federation, found that seven in ten Americans plan on celebrating Halloween, up 64% from last year and the most in the federation’s 10-year survey history. This year, more consumers plan on dressing in costume spending a whopping $2.5 billion on costumes, alone. Consumers are even indulging pets in the fun with an estimated $310 million being spent on pint-sized pet costumes.

Russel Stover made a leap of faith and started stocking store’s shelves with Halloween candy as early as mid-August. While the timing seemed premature, the tactic apparently paid off. “People started buying it when we put it out,” said Tom Ward, president of the Kansas City-based candy company. “They are thirsty for a little seasonal reprieve from the bad economy, gas prices.”

The Reasons Behind the Increase

It’s likely the economy is the explanation behind the dramatic rise in Halloween spending. It’s a celebration where creativity reigns and as a non-gift giving holiday, even consumers on the tightest of budgets can indulge in the fun. Escapism also tends to trend during poor economic times: The movie industry boomed during the Depression and romance novel sales soared during the last recession.

Also, Halloween no longer about simply passing out candy to neighborhood children, and is increasingly becoming about indulging in fantasy and adult-themed fun. “Halloween isn’t just for kids anymore, as adults are just as likely to get in on the fun with clever, unique costumes,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “With Halloween falling on a Monday, restaurants and retailers will benefit as many Americans celebrate all weekend long.”

If anything, this upswing in consumer Halloween spending is the making of some scary good sales boosts in these frightening economic times. Consumers are going batty for Halloween and it’s thrilling enough to send chills down retailer’s spines.

How about the rest of you: Why do you think the popularity of Halloween is on the rise?

About the survey: NRF’s 2011 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Surveys were conducted for NRF by BIGresearch. The poll of 9,374 consumers was conducted from Sept. 6-14. The consumer polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.