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Is Inflation Spooking Shoppers From Spending on Halloween?

Macroeconomic headwinds don’t seem to be affecting consumers’ Halloween spending plans, according to NRF data.

Halloween spending should bounce back to pre-pandemic levels this season, with 69 percent of consumers planning to celebrate, according to the National Retail Federation’s study published Sept. 19. That’s up 4 percent from the same period last year, and comparable to the 68 percent who participated in 2019.

The trade group, in partnership with Prosper Insights and Analytics, surveyed 8,283 participants in early September about their Halloween purchasing plans for costumes, candy and décor. They found that the average respondent intends to put about $100 toward Halloween-related spending—the second-highest amount in the survey’s history. This year’s total spending is expected to reach $10.6 billion, outpacing the 2021 record of $10.1 billion.

“Halloween is an exciting time for many families, and that enthusiasm is reflected in the number of Americans who plan to celebrate the holiday this year,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “As consumers continue to return to pre-pandemic behaviors, retailers are prepared to meet that demand and help make this holiday a fun and memorable one.”

As usual, costumes will account for the biggest share of spending, with 47 percent saying they plan to dress up. Kids’ and adults costume spending is expected to total $2.9 billion, the highest since 2017. According to Prosper Insights executive vice president of strategy Phil Rist, shoppers are seeking digital inspiration for ideas.

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“Social media is playing an increasingly important role in consumer behavior, and Halloween is no different,” he said. “Younger consumers, particularly those under the age of 25, will look to platforms like Instagram and TikTok for costume inspiration this year.” In fact, 36 percent of survey respondents said online searching will fuel their costume decisions, while about 25 percent said that the selection at retail would dictate their choices. About one-fifth said they planned to poll friends and family.

Nearly half (47 percent) said they started their shopping in September or earlier. Discount stores are the top choice for costume shopping with 40 percent saying they would look for deals at dollar stores and similar outlets. Halloween specialty stores are expected to get 36 percent of the season’s business, while 31 percent plan to shop online.

Most adults (70 percent) have already made up their minds on costumes and are going with the usual suspects Prosper Insights data shows that witches (5.3 million), vampires (1.7 million), ghosts (1.5 million) pirates (1.4 million) and cats (1.2 million) are the most popular selections. Batman tied with felines for the No. 5 slot, with 1.2 million saying they would dress up like The Dark Knight.

The superhero trend continues with kids’ costumes, with Batman and other Marvel and DC icons tied for the No. 5 most popular selection. More than 2.2 million children are planning to dress like Spiderman, likely influenced by last year’s hit movie “Spiderman: No Way Home”, in which the three most recent actors to play Spidey reprise their roles. Meanwhile, more than 1.9 million children will dress as their favorite princess. Witches (1.6 million) and ghosts (1.3 million) were also popular kids’ selections.

Many shoppers want their pets to get in on the fun, too. In fact, Halloween costumes for animal companions will generate $710 million in revenue, the study showed. Pumpkins (9 percent), hot dogs (5 percent), bats (4 percent), bumblebees (3 percent) and witches (3 percent) are the top pet costume choices.

Recent data from PetSmart also echoes the demand for pet costumes for Halloween and other holidays. An August study of more than 1,000 U.S. pet owners showed that 75 percent plan to dress up their pets this season.

Consumers are poised to spend record amounts on Halloween gear and garb this year.
PetSmart says 25 percent of pet owners will trick-or-treat with their animal companions. KikoStock / Adobe Stock

“The insights gained from this new data showcase the many ways pet parents include their pets in seasonal activities and point to a positive outlook for the pet industry,” said Stacia Andersen, executive vice president and chief customer officer for PetSmart. “Data-driven consumer insights help us continue navigating our in-store and online offerings while developing new, convenient ways for pet parents to shop.”

The survey said 25 percent of pet owners plan to take their animals trick-or-treating, and 30 percent plan to dress up their pet more than once. More than two-fifths (66 percent) said they change up their pets’ accessories and outfits each season, with millennials leading the pack (86 percent). Gen Z also enjoys dressing up pets (81 percent), followed by 74 percent of Gen X.

Social media factors into the demand for pet costumes and clothing. More than 37 percent of pet owners said that posting photos of their dogs and cats garners the most attention from followers—nearly 10 percent higher than those who said the same about photos of their kids. Pet parents are also competitive: about 32 percent believe that their pet in a costume would generate the most buzz.

Urban pets are most likely to be subjected to the mini-me effect, with 70 percent of city-dwelling owners saying they’re likely to match their pet’s attire with their own. The practice is less common in suburban or urban areas, PetSmart data showed.