Second only to Christmas
Industry drives spending at Halloween to the tune of $8 billion
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 24, 2012 06:00 am
If you’ve ever wondered if consumers or industry drive the increasing spending on the part of goblins everywhere, you only have to chat with Karrie Verhulsg.
The owner of Karrie’s Kostumes in St. Albert, with six days left until Halloween itself, will soon start compiling her list of popular costumes — for 2013. By January every year, Verhulsg and other merchants are placing their orders for the expected big names in costumes. And figuring out what those are is relatively simple.
“Movies and television,” she said. “That’s definitely what drives the market or what we tend to buy.”
The proof is in the customer response — to date this year characters from the summer blockbuster The Avengers are far and away the most popular. From big to small, residents are snapping up crimson red Iron Man and deep green Hulk costumes.
But if retailers order their stock in January and The Avengers didn’t come out until summer, how do they know what will be popular? Hollywood tells them.
“They are in the movie industry. They know what’s coming out for 2013,” said Verhulsg. “Movies are being made a year or two in advance so they have the marketing already able to go.”
In total, only Christmas rivals Halloween when it comes to the sheer volume of consumer spending. In total, from costumes to candy to increasingly more complex decorations, the Halloween industry sees approximately $8 billion in annual total spending. And that number is increasing annually. It is purely a market fed by industry — where Halloween was once the domain of small children going door-to-door with old pillow sacks, it is now the perfect example of modern consumerism — put something in front of people and they’ll buy it.
“For sure. Again it’s marketing, right?” Verhulsg said. “The whole industry is up and if you have all the little props available for people to buy, they are going to buy it at a decent price.”
Seen more in Edmonton than St. Albert are the “pop-up” Halloween stores that move in in October, sell their merchandise and shut down on Nov. 1. Rent is cheap as the stores exist only for a short period of time, but the profits are enormous as Halloween goers fork out roughly $2.9 billion on costumes every year, and not just for themselves or their kids. According to the 2012 Canadian Halloween Spending Predictions from the Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, 11 per cent of Canadians will spend up to $59 on a costume … for their dog.
The annual survey also shows the average family of four will spend $300 on Halloween in 2012. That includes an average of $60 per costume, $19 on decorations and $8 on greeting cards. In Canada alone, we’ll buy $322 million worth of candy. That number sprouts to $2.3 billion in North America.
And for those who want to decorate their houses, gone are the days when simply setting out your jack-o-lantern will suffice. From those homeowners who remodel their entire front (and sometimes back) yards to those who simply want to add a few ghosts hanging from the tree, decorations account for 27 per cent of the $8-billion dollar pie. In Canada, the average works out to $19 per home. Even Verhulsg’s store, which specializes in costumes, puts out decorations at Halloween from cauldrons to fog machines.
“It’s market driven. The industry is putting it out there and people are buying it. We’re a consuming nation,” Verhulsg says.
And the stores know it too. Verhulsg has hired make-up artists to teach customers how to create realistic wounds and other effects. And she’s not alone — Value Village, which does brisk business at Halloween, offers “costume consultants” at their stores to help customers put together their costumes.
The thrift store chain even conducts its own survey — it anticipates Canadians will spend 10 per cent more on Halloween this year at roughly $330. Of all consumers, 60 per cent said they would spend about $110 on decorations at Halloween.
So why the rampant consumer feeding frenzy every year just prior to Halloween? Perhaps the president and CEO of Value Village, Ken Alterman, said it best in a press release accompanying the chain’s 2012 Halloween survey.
“In recent years, Halloween has provided a welcome break from everyday worries, allowing people of all ages a chance to simply have fun celebrating with friends and family.”