Halloween sales flying high, merchants report

Halloween is shaping up to be more treat than trick for retailers.

According to the American Express Retail Index on Halloween shopping, consumers plan to spend an average of $81 on everything from candy to costumes to celebrate Halloween this year. Already a $2.5 billion industry, spending in 1998 is likely to rise above past years, as 85 percent of those Americans surveyed reported they will spend at least the same amount or more on Halloween-related purchases this year over last, according to the American Express survey.

American Express Retail Index is based on a national opinion survey of more than 1,000 consumers. Adults, according to the survey, are wild about Halloween. Activities have increased so much in recent years that 45 percent of respondents report celebrating the holiday on a level that is at least equal to or greater than New Year’s Eve. In fact, 48 percent of those surveyed said that Halloween is becoming as much a holiday for adults as for children.

In terms of spending, according to the survey, of those adults who plan to spend more money on Halloween this year, 59 percent will spend up to 25 percent more, while 29 percent will spend up to 50 percent more on such items as costumes, candy, decorations and entertainment.

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“The growing popularity of Halloween among adults has created a new opportunity for retailers who are capitalizing on a holiday once celebrated primarily by children,” said Emelie Smith, vice president of >Retail Industries Marketing, American Express Travel Related Services Company.

Smith said the growth in sales of Halloween-related merchandise may be attributed to a recent surge in retail, restaurant and entertainment industry Halloween tie-ins and promotions targeting adults.

According to the American Express survey, Halloween shoppers will be dividing their purchases this year among candy, costumes, and decorations. Last year, according to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent about $950 million on candy for Halloween. According to the American Express survey, candy is the number one item on the Halloween shopping list, absorbing slightly more than one quarter (26 percent) of the total budget. The remainder of the budget, according to the survey, goes toward costumes (23 percent), pumpkins (17 percent), in-home entertaining (15 percent), decorations (10 percent), and attending parties or events (9 percent).

Because of the potential for a major boost in sales, a wide array of retailers are expanding their Halloween offerings — including supermarkets, toy stores and seasonal specialty shops.

“Halloween is one of the fastest growing holiday seasons at Kmart, second in sales only to Christmas,” said Randy Williams, a seasonal buyer for the retail giant.

Discount department stores, such as Kmart, were cited by 57 percent of respondents as the preferred place to shop, according to the American Express survey. Other favored places to shop are: drug stores (27 percent), department stores (20 percent), specialty/costume shops (17 percent), and party supply stores (14 percent).

Locally, Rhode Islanders are just as enthusiastic about bobbing for apples this Halloween season. From the local joke shop with dismembered

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