By Konstantine Fekos
Six million witches, 3.2 million vampires and nearly $3 billion in sales.
Strip away the fun, fright and candy, and Halloween is big business, indeed — so big that in the midst of an historic economic downturn, spending is expected to hit a 10-year high.
Get the impression that we love this holiday?
According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to lay out $2.87 billion on Halloween costumes this year, spending more than $1.1 billion on children’s costumes, $1.4 billion on adult costumes and $370 million on pet costumes. The average person will spend $79.82 on Halloween candy, costumes and décor, bringing total spending to $8 billion — the most in the survey’s 10-year history.
Costumes take up the bulk of the shopping time and money, with several in the running as the most popular across the country. Local favorites can vary, however. Cartoon characters are extra popular in Crawford County this year due to the theme of the annual Meadville Halloween parade — “Cartoons on Parade.”
Nearly six million adults plan to dress as a witch this year, and 3.2 million will dress as vampires, according to the National Retail Federation survey. For kids, princess costumes take the number one spot (9.7 percent), with Batman (5.4 percent) and Spider-Man (4.6 percent) taking number two and three. When it comes to those planning a costume for their four-legged friends, 12.7 percent of people are sticking with the most traditional of all costumes — a pet-friendly pumpkin.
“Choosing a costume is one of the most entertaining parts of Halloween,” said National Retail Federation President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay. “With many families on the hunt for adult, child and pet costumes this year, retailers are making sure they’ve got their shelves fully stocked with a wide variety of costumes, including the traditional and even the not-so-traditional garbs inspired by Hollywood and even pop-culture.”
Not surprisingly, many consumers are looking to recent and forthcoming events for their 2012 costume ideas. More than one million adults and kids will dress as some type of athlete this year, a nod perhaps to the London Olympics. And with the election looming in early November, more than 767,000 Halloween party-goers will don some type of political costume.
As in previous years, man’s best friend won’t be left out of the Halloween celebrations. The most popular pet costume will be a pumpkin (12.7 percent), with devils (6.9 percent) and hot dogs (5.7 percent) following closely behind.
The theme of Meadville’s Halloween parade, which is known as the largest nightime Halloween parade in the state, nearly always has an impact on locals’ costume choices.
This year’s parade theme of “Cartoons on Parade” may be fueling requests at the Academy Theatre in Meadville, where managing director Irene Kipp said “we’ve gotten a lot of requests for cartoons like the Flintstones.”
The Academy is a go-to Halloween rental destination for may locals because “if we don’t have something, we can sometimes make something and assemble it in our shop,” Kipp said.
Rental fees depend on the extent of the costume and can run between $5 and $25. A $5 cleaning fee is added on pick-up and renters must pay a deposit equal to the renting price of an item or set, which will be refunded upon the costume’s return.
“We have a wide variety of costumes available,” said Kipp. “We also rent gowns, tuxedos and suits.”
Of course, some costumes defy yearly trends, as both Meadville Community Theatre and the Wal-Mart in Vernon Township show.
“We’re asked mostly for period pieces,” said Susan Crandall, president of Meadville Communty Theatre. “We have turn-of-the-century bonnets and furs as well as 1920 costumes and flappers’ outfits.”
MCT charges no particular rental fees, but instead requests a donation be made to the theatre. Halloween revelers looking to rent will likely be sponsored by a board member who will ensure the costume’s safe return.
Out in Vernon Township, “licensed costumes are always top sellers,” said Veronica Marshall, Wal-Mart representative. “The latest in movies and video games continue to be what sells.”
This year’s summer blockbusters like “The Avengers,” “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Dark Knight Rises” fuel already blazing-hot market trends of superheroes and pop culture items.
“Captain America, Spider-Man and Batman continue to be big for us,” said Marshall.
Traditional Halloween staples also flourish despite market nuances, even in the wake of massive Marvel franchises.
“The classics like witches and goblins are always popular with our customers,” said Marshall, adding that merchandise may vary from store to store depending on customer needs.
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.