As hordes of costumed kiddies prepare to descend upon neighborhoods across the nation, consumers and retailers alike will be shelling out big bucks for the spookiest night of the year. Recently Halloween spending has been at a record high. Americans spent $9 billion dollars on Halloween during 2018, just below 2017’s $9.1 billion.
When the economy is doing well, people tend to spend more on holiday shopping, an indication that Halloween 2019 may top the charts. “The economy is good and consumer confidence is high, so families are ready to spend on Halloween this year,” National Retail Federation (NRF) President and CEO Matthew Shay said.
The NRF estimates 175 million Americans (1 in 10) will participate in Halloween festivities this year. On average, individuals will spend about $90 on candy and costumes alone. Overall, consumers will spend around $3.2 billion on costumes, $2.7 billion on decorations, $2.6 billion on candy, and $400 million on greeting cards. Combined, Americans buy 300,000 tons of sweets during Halloween. That’s a lot of candy corn.
Even in a small state like Maryland, candy is big business.
Baltimore-based Wockenfuss Candies has been operating for over a century and currently has nine retail locations throughout the state. Likewise, Goetze’s Candy Company has been serving up regional favorites like Caramel Chews and Cow Tales for almost as long. Another well-known retailer, Candy Kitchen is listed as a major employer in seaside Worcester County, with a dozen locations in Ocean City.
Despite the hike in consumer spending leading up to October 31st, it remains difficult to pinpoint if Halloween’s economic impact is ultimately positive or negative. There are certainly short-term benefits caused by holiday spending that might not otherwise occur. Many economists argue this increase in spending boosts overall GDP and can even help spur job growth.
On the other hand, these net positive effects could be possibly offset by a variety of net negative effects occurring elsewhere in the economy. If consumers are saving money in anticipation of spending more for Halloween, gross spending during August and September might be reduced. Conversely, some consumers may limit their spending in November to make up for increased expenses during Halloween.
Nevertheless, many industries rely on the Halloween season to make the bulk of their profits. Around 145 million Americans (roughly 44 percent of the population) will purchase a pumpkin for jack-o-lantern carving this year, spending an estimated $377.2 million on the iconic orange gourds. Likewise, haunted house attractions will make a metaphorical killing in the span of a single month. With over 4,000 such haunts scattered throughout the country, these increasingly elaborate and interactive experiences were estimated to be a $300 million industry in 2013.
This year, one in five Americans will brave haunted hayrides, cursed corn mazes, and zombie-infested graveyards. “It’s really become a phenomenon. And it’s only getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” says Michael Lado, Artistic Director at Field of Screams Maryland. One of the region’s largest haunts, Field of Screams sees around 60,000 guests each year. “Halloween has become its own little economy. They come for the excitement of the four attractions, getting to see something different, getting to be part of their own little horror movie.”
Why are so many people eager to shell out their hard earned cash to be scared stiff? Halloween remains popular because it is a reasonably affordable holiday. Candy and pumpkins are relatively inexpensive. Plus, many thrifty consumers still opt to take the DIY route when it comes to costumes and decorations. On average, two in five trick-or-treaters will make their own costume instead of scouring the shelves at the local Spirit Halloween pop-up outlet. Compared to the $465 billion Americans will spend during the December festivities, Halloween’s price tag seems much less frightening. Remember, to avoid fainting keep repeating: “It’s only the economy… It’s only the economy… It’s only the economy…”