Sacramentan Walter Jones is a San Francisco 49ers football fan – his black hat and red shirt with the team logo gave it away – but his 10-year-old son shunned the red and gold in favor of a Halloween costume of Chewbacca, the hairy Wookiee warrior from the Star Wars movie series.
“Well,” Jones said with a shrug of his shoulders, “it’s Halloween. We’ll do it your way.”
And that, maybe more than anything, explains why Americans are expected to spend a record $9.1 billion on Halloween products this year. The projection, up nearly 9 percent from a year ago, comes from the National Retail Federation based on data amassed by Prosper Insights & Analytics.
“Americans are planning to spend more than ever as they gear up for Halloween,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers are helping customers celebrate in style with a huge selection of costumes, candy and decorations to cater to ghosts and goblins of all ages.”
Jones and his son were among the parents and kids cleaning out shelves of a special Halloween display last week at the Target store at 2505 Riverside Blvd., in Sacramento.
Merchandise ran the gamut, from small party favors to neon signs with spooky messages to large, elaborate lawn displays.
For Sacramento’s Tina Torres, a 37-year-old mother of three, it’s a time to splurge. She spent more than $100 on candy, costumes and indoor decorations. That’s more than the expected average of $86.13 projected by the NRF for each Halloween-devoted U.S. customer.
“We love Halloween … I think my children love it more than Christmas,” Torres said. “They talk about going trick-or-treating before school starts.”
We love Halloween … I think my children love it more than Christmas. They talk about going trick-or-treating before school starts.
Tina Torres of Sacramento, a mother of three
Retail analysts offer various reasons for Halloween’s steadily increasing popularity. Some attribute it to the increased availability of high-tech fixtures – severed heads that talk and perpetual-motion lawn displays with LED lighting – and large outdoor, blow-up decorations that can be 15 feet high and take up major lawn space.
“Back in the day, a home might have some cotton spider webs in the trees and some carved pumpkins on the doorstep. Now, some of the complex outdoor Halloween displays are as intricate and tech-driven as those you see at Christmas,” said Peter Schaub, a New York-based marketing and branding expert. “You can make your home look like the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland or Disney World.”
In the Sacramento area, consumers who talked with The Sacramento Bee said they considered Halloween a celebration of the return of full-on autumn.
“For me, it’s the end of 100-degree days, cooler weather ahead and the leaves turning color. You can feel the change,” said Jeannie Thomas, a 35-year-old stay-at-home mom shopping at Walmart in Citrus Heights. “… I think the adults enjoy it as much as the kids.”
NRF research backs that up. The recent NRF-Prosper Insights national survey said a record number of adults, 48 percent, plan to dress in costumes this year. According to the survey, more than 5.8 million adults plan to dress like a witch, 3.2 million as their favorite Batman character, 3 million as an animal and 2.8 million as a pirate.
Hard-core celebrants will include their pets. The NRF survey said 10 percent of pet lovers will dress their animals in a pumpkin costume, 7 percent will dress their cat or dog as a hot dog and 4 percent as a dog, lion or pirate.
All month, retailers have aggressively pursued consumers to get their share of the multibillion-dollar Halloween spending pie.
Michaels, the arts and crafts chain, was touting 50 percent discounts on Halloween décor, and its weekly newspaper insert featured party supplies, do-it-yourself costume materials and Halloween craft kits for kids.
Rite Aid ads showcased superhero costumes – Batman and Spider-Man among them – and discounts on more than 20 candy brands. Walgreens ads promoted party supplies, complete with creepy fixtures and frightening masks.
The NRF said an improved economy appears to be playing a role in the Halloween splurging, with only 12.9 percent of survey respondents saying their Halloween spending will be held down by the economy, down from 14.1 percent in 2016 and a peak of 32.1 percent in 2011.
NRF projected that large numbers of U.S. consumers will be proactive on Tuesday, with 71 percent planning to hand out candy, 49 percent decorating their home or yard, 48 percent wearing costumes, 46 percent carving a pumpkin, 35 percent throwing or attending a Halloween party and 23 percent visiting a haunted house.