Oct. 29--Between creating the perfect costume, stocking up on candy, preparing for a party and getting those plastic zombie flamingos to complete the front-yard transformation, Americans are embracing Halloween with their pocketbooks.
Consumers are expected to spend $6.9 billion on Halloween this year at an average of $75 per person, up $30 per person since 2005, according to a recent survey commissioned by the National Retail Federation.
The survey found 43.6 percent plan to wear a costume. Overall, they'll spend some $2.6 billion on costumes and $2.1 billion on candy. Considering holiday decorations alone, the nearly $2 billion spent on Halloween ranks second only to Christmas.
"It's a huge holiday for us," said Bill Cassells, store director of Fred Meyer in Burlington.
Life-size decorations, glow sticks and costumes to enhance trick-or-treaters' safety, and zombie accessories and makeup are some of the most popular items, he said. While overall spending is still below Thanksgiving or Independence Day, sales at his store were in line with national estimates on decorations.
"Candy is huge for us, too. Most people buy Halloween candy twice. They buy it, dig into their stash, then have to come back and get candy for the kids," Cassells said.
While searching for decorations and costumes, Lisa Lane of Mount Vernon said she will spend upwards of $300 on Halloween this year to help celebrate what has become a popular holiday for her family.
"The tradition's just kind of growing," Lane said. "It's just a fun holiday to spend with friends and family. I love seeing the kids come up to the door in all their cute costumes."
Large retailers have responded by putting a larger emphasis on Halloween holiday products and giving specialty costume training to staff.
Thrift stores like Value Village and Goodwill have embraced the holiday, which lifts their October business higher than all other months.
Goodwill collects costume material all year from donated clothing, which is stored in a central warehouse for a special Halloween display with new costume accessories in September, said company spokesperson Katherine Boury.
"This is our Christmas. This is the biggest thing we do," said Shannon Perry, retail supervisor at Mount Vernon Goodwill. Perry said retail staff dress up in costume around the holidays to get in the mood and give inspiration to shoppers.
The enthusiasm is shared by Value Village retail staff. They dress up and receive company training to help customers find the perfect old jacket, antique hat or outrageous jewelry to complete their costume vision, said Mount Vernon store manager Mark Gentry. Daily store hours are extended by one hour between early September and Oct. 30.
"Since I've started, sales have gone up on a yearly basis. Even with the down economy, people still spend money on Halloween," said Gentry, who has worked with the company for 10 years and in the Mount Vernon store for seven years.
In Burlington, Party City expanded its Halloween presence by opening the county's first Halloween City store in the former Sportman's Outfitters location on Burlington Boulevard.
The chain of stores started in 1977, and Burlington store manager Ron Towry said the new location is one of 450 Halloween City stores nationwide.
"There's not too many days you can dress up, decorate. It just gives people a chance for release," Towry said.
Reporter Mark Stayton: 360-416-2112, mstayton@ skagitpublishing.com, Twit ter: @Mark_SVH, Facebook. com/byMarkStayton