Halloween is a popular U.S. holiday for retailers but the National Retail Federation predicts sales will top $8.8 billion, or $86.27 per household, down from $86.79 spent a year ago.
NRF and Prospect Analytics published the annual forecast and said this year’s total is expected to be the third-highest in the survey’s 15-year history. The record was 2017 at $9.1 billion, falling to $9 billion last year. The survey found about 172 million people plan to celebrate Halloween, 68% of those surveyed, down from 175 million last year.
“Spending hasn’t changed much over the past few years, but we are seeing a noticeable increase in consumers whose Halloween purchases are inspired by their friends, neighbors and even celebrities on social media,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers expect to have another strong Halloween season and have stocked up on candy, decorations and the season’s most popular costumes.”
Consumers plan to spend $3.2 billion on costumes (purchased by 67% of Halloween shoppers), $2.6 billion on candy (95%), $2.7 billion on decorations (72%) and $390 million on greeting cards (34%).
Among those celebrating, 69% plan to hand out candy, 49% plan to decorate their home or yard, 47% will dress in costume, 44% will carve a pumpkin, 32% will throw or attend a party, 29% will take their children trick-or-treating, 22% will visit a haunted house and 17% will dress pets in costume.
NRF said one aspect of shopping that is changing is the purchases made online which was up to 25% this year. Another trend is more retailers offering Halloween decor and costumes. The survey found 42% plan to make their purchases in discount stores like Walmart, but 36% will go to a specialty store for costume purchases. Grocery stores will be the destination for 25% and 23% said they would visit department stores for Halloween purchases.
Shay said the ongoing trade war with China is causing uncertainty among American consumers, and 14% of those surveyed said their concerns about the economy will impact their Halloween plans. Most Halloween merchandise was in the country before a 15% tariffs on consumer goods took effect Sept. 1.
“Halloween celebrations are primarily for children and we see many of the same costume choices year after year,” said Prosper Insights Executive Vice President for Strategy Phil Rist. “Grownups who celebrate may be looking for new ideas, but for children, princesses and superheroes are perennial favorites.”
The survey found 3.1 million children plan to dress up as their favorite princess, 2.4 million as their favorite superhero, 2 million as Spider-Man, 1.5 million as an Avenger character and 1.4 million as Batman. Other top children’s costumes are witches, ghosts and vampires. Disney characters from Frozen and pirates also round out the top 10 costume choices by children this year.
Halloween is not just a child’s holiday. The survey found 5 million adults plan to celebrate by dressing up in costumes. The top costumes for adults closely resemble the child’s list with the addition of cats and zombies. More consumers are also getting the pets involved in the holiday. This year’s survey found 29 million people will dress up pets in costume for Halloween. The top costumes are pumpkins, hot dogs, superhero, bumblebee, cats, witches and lions.
Another recent survey conducted by Monmouth University sought to find the top-selling candy for Halloween. This report found 36% of respondents preferred Reese’s peanut butter cups and 18% said Snickers which took second place. M&M’s came in at number three with 11%. This report found Hershey bars, Skittles, Starburst and Tootsie Pops each received 6% or fewer votes in the survey.
The report said Snickers was the most popular in the West and Southwest regions of the U.S. The report also said candy corn will be a staple this year, not just for eating but also for decorating. Arkansas’ most popular Halloween candy, according to the report, is Skittles.