How do you like your Halloween? If you lean old-fashioned, you may prefer a low-key, spooky celebration with homemade treats, costumes made from whatever’s in the closet, and wholesome parties with apple bobbing and popcorn balls. For many, these traditions hearken back to a simpler time; one that we recognize from old movies, and sitcom reruns. But today, Halloween means big business.
In 2019, Halloween generated $8.8 billion in the United States. Even more astonishing, $490 million of that was spent on Halloween costumes—for pets. Yes, we spent close to half a billion dollars that year, just to turn Fifi and Fido into tiny vampires.1,2 Halloween inspires a wide variety of reactions. Some object to the holiday for religious reasons. Others resent the tradition of giving candy away to doorstep munchkins. And a select few may identify with a young boy who waits patiently in the serenest pumpkin patch he can find, eagerly anticipating a mythical gourd to bestow him with gifts. (Thanks, Peanuts.) Regardless of how or whether we celebrate, there’s no denying that, in the U.S., Halloween spending is significant. Last year, the 172 million Americans who took part in the holiday festivities spent an average of $86.27 per person on decorations, fun-size candy bars, and costumes.1
Spooky, Yet Profitable
Store-bought costumes have long been part of Halloween’s financial story. As far back as the 1920s, manufactured costumes featured all the latest pop culture characters, but it took the post-World War II economy to churn out mass production, and more importantly, make them affordable. In the 1950s, one of these costumes cost about $3 (roughly equivalent to $12 in today’s money). Nowadays, manufactured costumes are a little more detailed than the simple mask and-smock style of years past. They’re also more expensive, ranging into the hundreds of dollars (for both humans and pets alike).1,3 Seasonal treats turn an even larger profit. When safety concerns about homemade confections began to arise, bags of prepackaged candy became popular, as they allowed parents to more easily check for tampering. How much would you guess that Americans spent on Halloween sweets last year? Hold on to your candy corn: the number is $2.6 billion. That’s with a “B,” as in “Boo.” Coincidentally, dentists make upwards of $220,000 per year. Mention that to the kids on November 1st.4,5
This Year Might Be Different
While 2019 represented a big “treat” for retailers and manufacturers, one thing is unavoidable: as a holiday, Halloween doesn’t exactly lend itself to social distancing. Whether you’re passing out candy or walking your pumpkin-dressed pug to the parade, traditional Halloween celebrations have had us in close proximity to others, a no-no during this germ-conscious era. Fortunately, with a little adaptation, the Halloween activities we’ve become accustomed to can still be enjoyed. For example, online shopping for costumes and supplies is a snap. By coordinating with your neighborhood, you might be able to trick-or-treat by appointment, with neighbors leaving individual treat bags at the door and viewing children’s costumes through a window. It might also be an opportunity to start new traditions by looking to those older practices of yesterday, like making your own treats, watching spooky movies, or telling ghost stories in the backyard. Popcorn ball, anyone? Technology can support your celebrations too. Videoconferencing with friends and grandparents can let children safely show off their costumes. If you’re working remotely, it may even be a way for you to do something goofy and fun for your daily work meetings. For those who observe, what matters isn’t how much candy you eat or what you spend on your costume (or your cat’s), but who you share it with and how much fun you have together. Here’s wishing you a safe and happy Halloween.
1.CNN.com, June 13, 2013 2. MarketWatch.com, October 22, 2019 3. Slate.com, October 31, 2013 4. CandyIndustry.com, September 30, 2019 5. Salary.com, 2020