The outlook for Halloween spending this year is a mixed bag.
While analysts agree it’s going to be a bleak Christmas, a National Retail Federation survey says that Oct. 31 could fare better because the event offers consumers a chance to get some much-needed comic relief.
“Though the economy is struggling, Halloween sales may be a bright spot for retailers this fall,” said NRF President Tracy Mullin. “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.”
This year, the average consumer plans to spend $66.54 for Halloween, according to the NRF, with spending nationwide reaching $5.7 billion. Although per-person spending is up slightly from $64.82 last year, it’s well below the 10 percent growth recorded in 2007 and far off the 22 percent increase in 2006.
Young At Heart
It’s noteworthy that the NRF released its findings Sept. 30, before Wall Street began its precipitous tumble. But the survey points out an interesting trend , that young adults get more of a treat out of Halloween than the kiddies.
Based on its survey of 8,167 consumers, 91 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 said they planned to celebrate Halloween while 70 percent said they’d get in costume for the occasion and spend an average of $40.16 on their getups.
While 78 percent of adults between 25 and 34 said they’d engage in Halloween activities, roughly half said they would suit up in disguises, but they’d spend a bit more , $44.45 on average , than Gen Y’ers.
About a third of the survey sample said they’d take children trick-or-treating.
Mark DeLeon, manager at the Albertsons store in City Heights, said fewer parents turn their children loose to go knocking on strangers’ doors because they fear for their safety.
“In the neighborhood where I live kids just aren’t going out as much,” DeLeon said. “But Halloween has turned into a holiday that’s not so much for kids, but for adults.”
While sales of candy and costumes were slow, sales of keg beer and frozen pizzas are up as people plan parties.
“At this store, Halloween is the No. 1 day for frozen pizza sales.”
Pam Stompoly, manager of the Costume Shop in North Park, said: “Halloween is completely an adult holiday.
“This store has been open for 23 years and for the first three years or so we had kid’s costumes,” Stompoly said. “But there weren’t that many kids or parents with kids coming in. Wal-Mart and Target are big stores for kids.”
Halloween sales at the Costume Shop have risen by 5 percent to 7 percent, compared to last year, she said.
The reason is twofold, she added. Halloween revelry declined last year because of the wildfires that swept through the county in late October, and this year the holiday falls on a Friday rather than in the middle of the week.
As far as adult costumes go, she said preferences run the gamut, yet we can expect to see a lot of Sarah Palins running around this year.
Nearly Sold Out
Big-box retailers like Target don’t allow store managers to cite sales numbers or to say whether they are up or down. But Janet Reid, a manager at the Target store in Santee, said the store has nearly sold out of children’s costumes.
In addition to comic book superheroes that are perennial favorites with boys, Hollywood continues to have a big influence. Little girls go for Cinderella and Snow White, while Incredible Hulk and Iron Man costumes are popular with boys, the retailers said.
The most popular d & #233;cor item for Halloween is anything “that’s lit up and moves,” Reid said, describing skeletons and goblins with moving arms.
Halloween has taken its cue from Christmas.
“People are decorating more and more every year, and it’s not just Christmas,” Reid said. “They’re stringing lights on bushes and trees in their yards and on their houses for Halloween and they’re putting scary creatures on their roofs.”
While Halloween occupies center stage on the holiday aisle, Christmas is in the wings.
Retailers have to stay ahead of the game, Reid explained.
If one chain puts holiday items out months in advance, others have to follow to stay competitive. “It’s ironic,” she said. “People will ask, ‘Why do you have this put out? It’s only August.’ But we wouldn’t put it out if people didn’t buy it.”