Halloween Spending: Frightening


What do the countries of Samoa, Grenada, and Barbados have in common with Halloween? It’s almost certain calendars in these countries mark October 31st without the notation of Halloween. Just another day in paradise for them. Economists meanwhile like to use a country’s gross domestic product (GDP), the total value of goods produced and services provided annually, to measure the size of its economy. The more goods produced or services provided, the bigger the economy.

Halloween should be a country. America’s love affair with Halloween spending usually exceeds the gross domestic product of 25-30 counties each year. In 2014, AGFinancial reported Halloween spending in the U.S. exceeded the GDP of 11 counties – combined! That’s a lot of licorice and theatrical make-up.

There are numerous websites and reporting bureaus dedicated to forecasting Halloween spending. The National Retail Federation (NRF) is one of them. NRF says it has conducted an annual Halloween survey for over a decade and sometime between September 1-9 over 7,600 consumers were contacted about 2020 Halloween spending.

The results are frightening, even in a global pandemic. More than 148 million adults plan to participate in Halloween activities, but overall participation is down to 58 percent. House parties, handing out candy, or visits to haunted houses have dropped because of social distancing concerns. An estimated 17 percent of surveyed adults plan virtual celebrations.

Halloween spending in the U.S. will reach $8.05 billion this year. That’s a drop from 2019’s $8.78 billion. Even with participation down, Halloween consumers will spend more this year, estimated by NRF at $92.12 per participant, compared to $86.27 in 2019. That spending has nearly doubled since 2004 when $48.48 was forecast.

What’s Halloween without a little candy? Why stop at the 100-piece bag when there’s a mega-bag on the next shelf? Last year NRF forecast $2.6 billion was spent on candy, or about $25 per person. More will be spent in 2020, and this is not approved by the St. Croix Valley Dental Association, if one exists.

As for candy do’s and don’ts, another website tracks ‘best’ and ‘worst’ Halloween treats. In 2019, Skittles topped the favorite list, followed by Reese’s Cups, M&M’s Snickers, and Starburst. Candy corn (least appreciated), circus peanuts, peanut butter kisses, wax cola bottles, and Necco Wafers were deemed the worst five.

Yes, adults still dress up for Halloween. NRF says the most popular 2020 adult custom will be a witch, followed by vampire, cat, Batman, and ghost. No presidential candidates? Upon further contemplation, costumed candidates may find themselves in personal peril. A COVID grim reaper likely faces the same reaction. Should he/she come knockin’ do not answer.

Halloween is not a Holiday. At worst, Halloween is somewhat of a springboard for even more consumer spending leading up to Holidays in November and December. At best, Halloween is a short escape into another persona. In the St. Croix Valley, we are reminded to be safe and keep others around you safe, too. Have safe fun.