Insights & Advice


Zombies are BOOming

They arrive at night or at odd times when most of us fail to notice.  In small towns and large, in desolate strip malls and out of the way commercial spaces, store fronts pop-up, as if by magic. The costume stores have come to town. Halloween is coming, so get ready for what has become the third largest party night in America.

Most popular costume this year

Yes, year after year, Hallows’ Eve has slowly insinuated its way into our hearts and minds. This year seven out of every ten Americans (68.6%) plan to celebrate, plunking down an average $72 in costumes, decorations and candy, according to the National Retail Federation. Total Halloween spending is forecasted to reach $6.86 billion versus $5.8 billion last year.  

Pop-up stores have exploded, now numbering 15,000 nationwide, which is a 15% increase over last year. Consumers have also turned to the Internet where online retailers now account for as much as 20% of total sales with eBay alone expected to sell 500,000 costumes, according to IBISWorld.

            Zombies are the preferred costume this year with over 2.6 million people planning to wear shredded, torn or just plain worn-out clothes while doing the “Thriller” walk around their neighborhoods. Three guesses why?

1) To commemorate the actions of our political leaders

2) To emulate the continued performance of our nation’s largest banks or

3) It is the cheapest costume we can put together since we haven’t had a raise in four years. 

The largest boost in spending has come from the 18-to-34-year-old demographic group whose participation and spending has surged over the last 5-10 years. They are big on costumes and are no longer satisfied with two holes in Mom’s faded sheet. This year those costumes will account for $1.75 billion. Americans will spend hefty sums on costumes of Zombies, Lady Gaga, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Vampires, Captain America, Hanna Montana and my favorite, Batman. 

I will confess my contribution to these statistics. Several years ago (when I lived in Manhattan) I would march every year in the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade dressed as Batman. I paid several hundred dollars for my rubberized (and extremely hot) costume, which was made in Mexico, and have had so much fun that the return on my investment was well worth it. Now, most costumes are made in China.

Kids’ costumes account for about $1 billion, but an additional growth area is the family pet where 14% of consumers will spend $310 million to disguise their cat or dog as Elvis, Superman or Little Red Riding Hood. As for me, I won’t be dressing Titus, our Labrador retriever, any time soon. He has a tendency to transform any and all costumes into shredded rags faster than a speeding bullet.

Fully 34% of Halloween celebrants plan to throw a party, while 22% will visit a haunted house. But traditional pursuits, such as handing out candy to trick or treaters still occupies first place among Americans (73.5%), carving a pumpkin (47.8%) and taking the kids door-to-door (32.9%).

Almost half will decorate their home or yard, spending an average $20 each for life-size skeletons, fake cob webs, ghosts and inflatable pumpkins. Halloween now ranks second only to Christmas in the area of home décor for the holidays.

All in all, Halloween this year is shaping up to be a monster event. Granted, some participants are cutting back this year due to the economy. They may make their own costume or skimp on the amount of candy in the bowl by the door but most everyone will still be out celebrating.  That’s a good thing, in my opinion. Who knows– you may even catch a glimpse of the “The Dark Knight” if you happen to venture around my neighborhood.

Posted in Macroeconomics, The Retired Advisor