FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, October 11, 2004

Halloween Is Frightfully Big Business

Have you noticed how more and more houses this time of year are as decorated for Halloween as they would be for Christmas? It's true -- we're spending far more on Halloween than we used to, and that trend doesn't appear to be changing. Gone are the days of simply carving a pumpkin, tacking a paper skeleton to your door and handing candy bars out to a couple of the local trick-or-treaters in homemade costumes. Today, both kids and adults are spending hundreds of dollars each on professional costumes.

According to a National Retail Federation survey, consumers will spend an estimated $3.12 billion this year on Halloween costumes, decorations and related items. Also, Halloween is becoming increasing popular among 18-34 year-olds. "Young adults aren't willing to relinquish a holiday they grew up enjoying," said Phil Rist, Vice President of Strategy for BIGresearch, the group that conducted the NRF survey. "Halloween remains one of the only days where society gives adults permission to act like kids again."

This is yet another sign of young adults refusing to grow up. When I was a kid, no one over the age of 12 would have been caught dead dressing up for Halloween, and the only kids who went trick-or-treating were those accompanying younger siblings. And our parents sure as heck wouldn't have paid upwards of $100 on a costume at a Halloween "superstore."

Also, the focus of Halloween is changing. The NRF says that this year's hot costumes for kids aren't the traditional ghosts, witches and monsters, but theme characters like Spider-Man and Sponge Bob Squarepants. Also, groups such as evangelical Christians are attempting to move the emphasis of Halloween away from the demonic and the occult. A church in my community has for several years been holding a very successful "Halloween alternative" party every October 31, where kids are encourages to come dressed as their favorite Biblical figures. As the numbers of evangelicals grow, this trend may grow with them.

According to the NRF, Halloween currently ranks as the sixth-largest spending holiday in the U.S. The "winter holidays" (presumably including Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year's) are the runaway leaders, with $220 billion in spending annually. Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day and Father's Day follow in that order. Halloween ranks lower because people don't buy pricey jewelry and electronics as gifts at that time... though if the current trend holds, expect Halloween to move up over the next several years.