By Tricia Drevets
Pumpkins and scary costumes are big business. The National Retail Federation (NRF) new survey predicts that American consumers will spend $8.4 billion this fall on Halloween items. That figure is a record high in the organization’s 11-year history of studying Halloween spending.
The survey, which is conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, found that 171 million Americans plan to participate in Halloween activities this year, and the typical adult will spend an average of $82.93, which is an increase from $74.34 last year.
Halloween is second only to Christmas as America’s biggest commercial holiday, according to the NRF.
As soon as the kids are back to school – and, in some cases, even before they were – stores clear their shelves of notebooks and pencils to make room for costumes, candy and decorations. Vacant mall and strip mall shops become temporary Halloween retailers, such as Spirit Halloween and Halloween Headquarters.
Restaurants include special Halloween-themed food and beverage items. Theme parks host special “fright nights” for guests complete with decorated rides and costumed workers.
Bars and nightclubs have parties on the calendar, and bakery ovens heat up with cupcakes and cookies that reflect a Halloween theme. Farmers clear their fields for corn mazes and haunted houses as they welcome families to their pumpkin patches.
According to the NRF survey, consumers plan to spend $3.1 billion on costumes, $2.5 billion on candy, $2.4 billion on decorations and $390 million on greeting cards.
“Consumers are eager to celebrate Halloween, especially given that eight in 10 Americans will shop by mid-October. That is the highest we have seen in the survey history,” said Pam Goodfellow of Prosper Insights & Analytics. “Americans will enjoy taking advantage of early-bird promotions both online and in-store as they kick off the fall season.”
Social media is a big source of inspiration for the holiday, the survey found. Survey respondents cited Pinterest (17 percent) and Facebook (also 17 percent) as sources for Halloween costume and party ideas. Others said they got ideas for October celebrations from friends and family (19 percent), pop culture (16 percent) and print media (14 percent).
With 67 percent of the people celebrating Halloween this year planning to purchase costumes, the NRF predicts that superhero costumes will be the rage for children this year. Superhero costumes narrowly beat out princess costumes for the first time in the 11 years of the Halloween survey.
Of the younger set, just over three million children will dress as an action hero or superhero and 2.9 million will dress as a princess. About 2.5 million children will dress up as an animal, with cats, dogs and bunnies being the most popular choices.
Millennials also are embracing the superhero theme. The top choices of young adult survey respondents are the Batman characters of Joker, Batman and Harley Quinn. Following in second place are witch costumes, and animal costumes are in third place for the 18 to 34 age group this year.
Adults over the age of 35 also plan to dress up this Halloween, and 76 percent of them reported in the September survey that they have already made up their minds about what to wear. Most respondents in this age group say that they will be wearing the perennial favorites of pirate or witch costumes.
However, nearly five percent said the 2016 Presidential race is providing their costume inspiration. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton costumes came in third in the older adults segment of the survey.
Online choices of masks of both candidates range from cardboard masks on a stick that cost around $5 to over-the- head latex masks that that cost $20 and up.
The description for retailer Party City’s “Combover Presidential Wig” is “Make your Halloween costume great again by adding a Combover Presidential Candidate Wig! This wig features frizzy bright yellow hair with a drastic comb over side part. Use this Combover Presidential Candidate Wig as part of your Halloween costume for a truly presidential look that’s sure to spark conversation.” It costs $19.99.
Party City’s “Billionaire Presidential Candidate Mask,” which costs $29.99, boasts this description:
“Feeling presidential this year? Wear the over-the-head Billionaire Presidential Candidate Mask made from latex. This mask is a caricature of the Republican candidate. The highly detailed sculpt emphasizes his infamous comb over hair style and spray tan.”
Party City also has a Hillary Clinton latex mask for $29.99 and a cardstock mask of the Democratic candidate for $5.99.
The description for this mask reads: “Take on Washington in this Hillary Clinton Mask. This lightweight mask is made of cardstock and features a realistic print of her face complete with her signature facial features and hairstyle. The attached elastic band keeps it in place as you walk around in your favorite pantsuit. With this Democrat mask and you have an unmistakable political costume for Halloween or an Election Day party.”
Looking for a “his and her” idea? You could order a Bill Clinton mask, also retailing for $5.99.
The Party City website reads: “With this former president mask and you have an unmistakable political costume for Halloween or an Election Day party.”
Some costume companies are taking the two candidates and vamping up their looks considerably. For example, at yady.com, you can purchase the “Donna T. Rumpshaker” costume, which sold out last year, or the new “Donna T. 2.0” for $69.95.
Here’s the website description for Donna T 2.0: “Get the voters fired up this Halloween in this limited edition Yandy Donna T. 2.0 costume featuring a navy blue blazer with long sleeves, a white top with a high neckline, an open neckline panel, an attached red tie, matching navy blue pants, and an American flag pin. It’s gonna be “yuuuge!”
“Costumes these days are often about capturing the timely story and transforming it into something fun and sexy,” said Chad Horstman of Yandy.com in a news release. “With this year’s presidential election in particular, it’s clear our customers are looking for any opportunity they can to have fun with it and lighten the mood this Halloween.”
If costumes of the U.S. Presidential candidates are not scary enough for you, how about dressing up your dog? Many families do not want to leave their pets out of the fun when it comes to Halloween.
The NRF survey of nearly 7,000 American adults was conducted September 6-13. Prosper Insights & Analytics reports the survey has a margin of error of either plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.