Halloween spending spooked by economic fears

Halloween spending spooked by economic fears

October 26th, 2013 by Shelly Bradbury in Business Around the Region

Spooky animatronics are seen on display at Halloween Express, near Hamilton Place.

Photo by C. B. Schmelter/Times Free Press.

Emily Large, 14, picks out some costume accessories while her father Brad and her 12-year-old sister Abby wait, at Halloween Express, located near Hamilton Place.

Photo by C. B. Schmelter/Times Free Press.

HOW AMERICANS ARE CELEBRATING HALLOWEEN

72 percent will hand out candy

47 percent will decorate their homes or yards

44 percent will carve a pumpkin

43 percent will dress in costume

31 percent will take children trick-or-treating

Source: National Retail Federation

Chattanoogan Katie Knight dresses up for Halloween every year and usually buys her costume. But this year, she's pinching pennies and getting crafty.

"I decided to make my own this year," she said. "I just came [to the store] to get a wand for my fairy costume. And wings."

Knight expects to spend about $50 to celebrate Halloween this year instead of the more than $100 she typically spends. And she's not alone. Fewer Americans are celebrating the spooky holiday this year, and those who are marking the date by carving a pumpkin or donning a costume plan to spend less money, according to the National Retail Foundation.

About 158 million Americans will participate in Halloween activities this year, down from the 170 million who suited up last year. The average consumer will spend about $75 on the holiday this year, which is about $5 less than last year. But total spending on the holiday is still projected to hit a whopping $6.9 billion.

At Halloween Express in East Brainerd, store owner Kim Bullock said her sales are down about 10 to 15 percent compared to previous years. She's been selling all sorts of costumes, spiders, gags and masks in the Scenic City for five years.

"Chattanooga has been a great place for celebrating Halloween," she said. "But I guess the economy and concerns about gas and grocery prices have impacted it this year."

This year, fox costumes are especially popular because of the viral Youtube hit by Norwegian band Ylvis that questions what sound a fox makes, Bullock added.

While she wasn't looking for a fox costume, Ashely Brock was browsing through Halloween Express to try to find a cheap pink unicorn costume and face paint for her 7- and 5-year-old daughters.

"We're just trying to save money in general," Brock said. "We usually make our costumes but we waited to the last minute this year. Hopefully we won't spend as much as last year."

But not everyone is feeling the squeeze. At Ruby Falls, the Haunted Caverns attraction is on pace to grow between 3 percent and 5 percent over last year, said Hugh Morrow, Ruby Falls president. The company hires about 60 actors and 20 support staff to create the nationally-ranked spook show.

"October has become a very important month to us," he said. "It's in our top three months as far as revenue and traffic because of the Haunted Caverns and just because of fall breaks, which lead to busy weekends."

Overall, spending on Halloween has increased by 54 percent since 2005, according to the National Retail Federation, and is second only to Christmas in spending on decorations.

"I love Halloween," Knight said. "It's the only day of the year when you can wear a costume and not look crazy."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.