And you thought the retail outlook was scary.
As Halloween approaches, Americans from all walks of life are in the process of spending billions on costumes, candy, decorations and other paraphernalia to celebrate this most frightening of holidays, marking one of the brighter spots on a challenging retail calendar.
According to the National Retail Federation, Halloween 2016 saw ghosts and goblins of all ages plunk down a record $8.4 billion for the occasion, a figure that is projected to rise a further 8.3 percent this year, to $9.1 billion — a growth rate far in excess of both US gross domestic product and overall retail.
According to NRF, Halloween ranks eighth in holiday spending, just ahead of St. Patrick’s Day. The Christmas holiday period ranks No. 1, with $656 billion spent last year.
“It’s like a big, sexy party with a lot of vampires,” says Tony Bianci, who manages Halloween Adventure, an East Village purveyor of costumes, makeup, wigs and props. “You can dress up as Superman and get a date.”
Bianci, whose store is open year-round, says he does 60 percent to 70 percent of his business in September and October, a time during which his staff mushrooms to 100 from the usual 35.
The most in-demand costumes are not necessarily the scary ones: Wonder Woman is currently flying off the shelves for trick-or-treaters of all ages, while characters featured in Disney’s “Descendants” TV movie are the most popular with kids, he says.
Owing at least in part to its location, which is not far from where the Village holds its annual Halloween parade, Bianci says that Halloween Adventure is less affected by the Halloween aisles featured in large stores like Kmart or the “pop-up” stores that spring up for this and other holidays, but is “more affected by Amazon.”
Another New York retailer handles the sweeter side of the holiday.
Dylan’s Candy Bar, founded by Dylan Lauren and inspired both by Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and the fashion sense of her father, designer Ralph Lauren, is also a year-round operation and offers shoppers “quite a unique experience,“ says Tushar Adya, president and chief operating officer.
The Candy Bar, which Adya proudly says is selling “candy as a lifestyle,“ began 16 years ago at what is now its flagship location on Third Ave and 60th Street and has since expanded to other locations in the city and to outlets in the Hamptons, Chicago and Miami Beach.
“Actually, our customers who come for Halloween buy their trick-or-treating candy in supermarkets but come to us mainly for gift candy to bring to parties and so forth,” he says, explaining that while “Halloween is a short window, we do see a nice uptick in sales.”
But some retail analysts are more subdued when it comes to the effect of Halloween spending and what it may do tide retailers over, at least until Christmas spending kicks in.
According to Robert Schulz of Standard & Poor’s, retailers may have timing working against them this year.
“Halloween is a growing kind of holiday spend, so it has more prospects to go up rather than down,” he says, adding, “But since it’s on a Tuesday this year, that’s not providing a tailwind.”