Trinity Kay didn't dress up for Halloween last year, but Sunday she was buying a hat and mechanic's shirt as a costume to celebrate Halloween this year.
"There's a different vibe this year, and I think a lot more of us are celebrating," Kay said after buying her outfit at the Spirit Halloween store at Northgate Mall in Hixson.
Kay, an 18-year-old Brainerd resident, was among a flood of shoppers over the weekend at Spirit Halloween stores, which opened up in vacant storefronts in more than 1,500 locations across the nation — including local stores at the abandoned Sears store at Northgate Mall in Hixson, in the former Bed, Bath and Beyond in the Shoppes at Hamilton Place in East Brainerd, and at other vacant storefronts in the area, in Cleveland and Dalton.
The seasonal retailer Spirit Halloween has emerged as the biggest business to capitalize on the growth in Halloween spending, rising like a zombie every fall to set up temporary shops ahead of the Oct. 31 holiday.
Steve Silverstein, CEO of Spirit Halloween, told NBC News the company "has people stationed all over the country and a network of brokers" looking for vacated storefronts where the Halloween retailer can set up shop for a couple of months to sell its costumes, decorations and Halloween apparel.
The National Retail Federation expects Halloween spending this year to reach a record $12.2 billion, exceeding last year's record of $10.6 billion, according to the annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.
Some of the increase reflects higher prices for popular Halloween items, including candy, which is priced an average of 13% higher than a year ago. But like Kay, more people said they are celebrating Halloween this year as parties and special events become more common coming out of the pandemic.
The retail federation survey found 73% of Americans said they plan to participate in some Halloween-related activity this year, up from 69% last year.
"More Americans than ever will be reaching into their wallets and spending a record amount of money to celebrate Halloween this year," National Retail Federation President Matthew Shay said in a forecast.
The retail federation estimates the typical American will spend $108.24 on Halloween-related costumes, candies, decorations and parties this year. That's up from the $102.74 per capita spent last year on Halloween.
Like previous years, the top ways consumers are planning to celebrate are handing out candy (68%), decorating their home or yard (53%) or dressing in costume (50%). However, in a return to pre-pandemic norms, more consumers also plan to throw or attend a party (32%) or take their children trick-or-treating (28%).
More than two-thirds of those celebrating Halloween this year said they plan to buy costumes to dress up for the occasion, boosting spending on costumes to a record $4.1 billion, up from $3.6 billion in 2022.
For children, the most popular costumes among trick-or-treaters this year are similar to previous years — Spiderman, princess and ghost apparel. But as it is the year of Barbie, a whopping 1.8 million Americans said they would be dressing up as the Margot Robbie character and legendary doll.
Spending on decorations also is projected to grow to a record $3.9 billion this year, with more homes putting up skeletons, ghosts, pumpkins and other spooky decorations.
Ryan and Sarah Spencer, of Hixson, are among those homeowners who delight in decorating their home with different Halloween displays for their neighbors to enjoy.
Every fall, Sarah Spencer and her husband spend a couple of hundred dollars and several days turning the lawn of their Norcross Road home into a movielike set of decorations, she said. The theme for their yard decorations changes every couple of years. After displaying pirate ships, the Chernobyl disaster and alien spaceships in previous years, the Spencers are featuring a "Ghostbusters" theme this year.
"We don't want anything that is too scary, but we want people to have fun and enjoy our displays," Spencer said in a telephone interview Monday. "It's really a community thing for us, and every year we will have people stop by, take a few pictures and thank us for our decorations. There was one year we didn't think we had the time to do it, but after everyone started asking us in early October what we were going to do that year, we got guilted into doing it, and we buckled down and put up our display."
The decoration fever by the Spencers appears to be contagious, with two of their neighbors also joining in yard decorations this year across the street.