Americans’ projected $11 billion in Halloween spending set to make stores happy

Donnie Clark and Erin Tankersley shop for Halloween items at Spirit Halloween at Towne West Square mall on Tuesday. (Sept. 30, 2014)
Donnie Clark and Erin Tankersley shop for Halloween items at Spirit Halloween at Towne West Square mall on Tuesday. (Sept. 30, 2014) The Wichita Eagle

Get to the stores if you want a Halloween costume from the Disney movie “Frozen.” Elsa’s blue princess gown already is disappearing from local costume shops, and they don’t expect many will remain by Oct. 31.

That is a reflection of a boom in the trick-or-treat business this year. Expectations for a big national Halloween spending splurge already are being met.

“It is better so far this year than it has been for the last five years. And I don’t know why,” said Kay Hettenbach, owner of Kay’s This ’N That, 4730 W. Second St. in Wichita. “Seems like a lot of people are getting out. They’re tired of staying home and feeling bad.”

Nothing like dressing up as somebody else to lose those blues.

The average household plans to spend $125 on costumes, candy, decorations and other Halloween items this year, according to a survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers. About 74 percent of U.S. households that buy Halloween items collectively will spend about $11.3 billion.

Eight out of 10 households plan to spend the same or more on Halloween compared to last year, with one out of five households planning to increase spending, the survey found.

“Halloween has continued to grow in importance over the past several years and consumer demand has driven retailers to place greater emphasis on the holiday,” the council’s Jesse Tron said in a written statement. “The fact that consumers are willing to spend more on discretionary purchases is a positive sign for the upcoming holiday shopping season.”

Another study, by the National Retail Federation, concludes that more than two-thirds of Americans who celebrate Halloween will buy costumes this year, the highest percentage in the survey’s 11-year history. The average person will spend $77.52 this Halloween, up from $75.03, according to the study.

A few more fun facts from the NRF study: 45.8 percent of Americans will dress in costume, 71.1 percent will hand out candy and 46.7 percent will decorate their homes and yards.

We will spend $2.8 billion on costumes, including $1.1 billion for children’s costumes, $1.4 billion for adult costumes, and $350 million on costumes for our pets, according to the retail federation’s study.

“Halloween is a booming business. It’s up and coming,” said Jeff Cummings, district sales manager for Spirit Halloween, which has fives stores in Wichita. “Five years ago they were saying that within seven years Halloween was going to surpass Christmas. It’s the only day you get to dress up, and you don’t have to buy gifts for other people.”

One big reason for this year’s bump in sales: Halloween falls on a Friday night. More kids go out seeking candy door to door without school to worry about the next morning. And more adults plan weekend costume parties.

“They’ll have the Fridays and Saturdays both,” Hettenbach said. “The kids are trick-or-treating on Friday night this year and I guess they’re anticipating a long weekend.”

That means big business not only for stores that specialize in Halloween stuff, but for bars and other businesses that specialize in parties.

Right now the biggest sellers at Spirit Halloween, said Cummings, are superheroes.

“Frozen” costumes are pretty much sold out, he said. He also expects good business on “Game of Thrones” costumes, for which his stores carry the only license in town.

“Frozen” costumes also are selling fast at Wichita’s two Party City stores, said Richard Moreland, district manager.

“Everything to do with ‘Frozen’ is just out of sight,” he said.

Moreland said lower gas prices are helping Halloween sales, as people have more discretionary income.

“When gas prices come down, sales in Halloween costumes go up,” he said.

Foggy Bottom, which sells high-end costumes at 3234 E. Douglas in Wichita, also has seen an uptick in business already.

“We were up for the month of September,” said Beth George, owner.

And there’s still 30 days to go before Halloween.

“So much of our business happens the last week,” Moreland said. “It’s just crazy.”

The only Halloween day that is better for costume sales than Friday is Saturday, he said.

That happens next year.

Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or