Halloween spending is expected to soar to $9.1 billion this season as more and more adults tap into their inner child.
Not only are they opting for ever more elaborate decorations — corpses rising from the dead, singing demons — they are dressing up to pay homage to their favorite pop culture character or political stance.
According to a new survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, sales will increase 8.3 percent over 2016’s sales of $8.4 billion, or an average of $86.13 That breaks down to $3.4 billion on costumes purchased by 69 percent of the shoppers surveyed; $2.7 billion on candy, purchased by 95 percent of the shoppers surveyed; $2.7 billion on decorations, purchased by 72 percent of shoppers surveyed; and $410 million on greeting cards, purchased by 37 percent of shoppers surveyed.
When it comes to buying costumes and other Halloween supplies, 47 percent of shoppers will visit discount stores and 38 percent will go to a specialty Halloween store or costume store. In addition, 25 percent will shop at supermarkets, 24 percent at department stores and 22 percent will shop online.
Confirming that Halloween isn’t just for children, a record number of adults (48 percent) plan to dress in costume this year — with witch, favorite Batman character, animal or pirate as the most popular choices.
Jerry Vest, co-owner of Have Guns Will Rent Costumes & Props shop in Kansas City, Kan., said superheros are perennial favorites, but this year that includes policemen, firemen and soldier costumes.
“That makes my heart start fluttering because they are my superheroes,” he said. “I have requests for Batman, a pimp. I haven’t had anything for Darth Vader. The 1920s all year round. Hippies, for high school reunions and Halloween. ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Santa Claus, eight just this week. Yes, yes, I think that’s silly and I absolutely have no idea why, makes no sense.”
He said industry sources say witches will be hot this year but he hasn’t seen it. He’s also getting more requests for patriot outfits: “Their way to show support for the National Anthem,” he said.
“My business had been growing 10 to 30 percent until 2008 when it dropped 30 percent because of the economy. Many shops went out of business nationwide,” Vest said. “But this year, because of the economy, it is much better. We expect it to be the best ever.”
Strip malls and shopping centers also are benefiting by filling their large and long-empty retail spaces with Halloween pop-up stores.
Spirit Halloween, which was founded in 1983, has 1,300 locations this year including four in the KC metro.
The company expects many toddlers will be dressed as their favorite TV character — such as Shimmer & Shine, PJ Masks and the “Paw Patrol” crew — while older children will pick Eleven, Dustin, Joyce and even Barb characters from the Netflix drama “Stranger Things.” Spirit Halloween has exclusive rights for the official “Stranger Things” costumes, as well as the Sanderson sisters from Hocus Pocus.
Girlpower will be out in force through Wonder Woman, Disney’s Belle and Moana, and “Dance Moms’ ” JoJo Siwa. Customers also can pick creepy aliens, Victorian steampunk and social-media inspired costumes such as the dog filter and giant bobbleheads.
Some millennials, nostalgic for their childhoods and teenage years, will go for a 1990s throwback theme with costumes based on “Baywatch,” “Space Jam” and “Saved by the Bell” stars. Food-themed costumes include bacon and egg, tacos, Chinese take-out, a can of Spam and a bright red King crab.
A Spirit Halloween press release recommends do-it-yourself looks: “Grab a presidential pout mask and your cellphone for an easy transformation into Tweeting Trump, tiny hands not included.”
Decor can be as simple as spider webs and pumpkin door posters to hair-raisingly eerie animatronic characters that can cost $100 to $200 or more — toe-tagged corpses who rise from the dead, fogging basement doors with creepy hands clawing to get out, jumping spiders and talking demons. Even Home Depot is getting into the spirit with an animated standing witch, eyes glowing yellow, who wants your tears for her witch’s brew.
Employees at Halloween Express expect troll costumes to be popular choices, as well as child-eating clown Pennywise from the movie “It.”
The chain also offers couples costumes — plug and socket, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Betty and Barney Rubble, Popeye and Olive Oyl — as well as career and occupations from airline captain to a KISS-themed rocker to a priest. Women’s career costumes — cabbie, referee, astronaut, sergeant — tend to come with “sexy” in the title.
Lenexa’s locally owned Twisted Halloween has two taglines — “Think outside the bag” and “Dare to be different.” It tries to create more of an experience by offering free makeup classes for teenagers and adults — zombies, clowns and other characters — and free face-painting for children on the weekends.
“People see the same bagged costumes, the same stuff every year. But we have tons of accessories to create your own look,” said Michelle Hoffine, owner and operator.
One wall at Twisted Halloween is filled with pirate gear, popular from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies and also an easier choice for family members who all want to dress alike.
Hoffine also tries to stock higher quality merchandise so it can be repurposed for the next Halloween. A pixie coat, for example could be used in a pirate outfit, steampunk, witch or vampire, or vintage carnival or clown, she said.
“And we always sell out of Nixon, Clinton and Obama masks every season,” she said. “Some people come in and see a political mask and that sets them off. Sometimes they get so upset they leave without buying anything.”