As Halloween descends upon us, images of copious amounts of candy corn and miniature chocolates, vampires and werewolves, and children roaming moonlit streets on a brisk autumn evening are conjured. The latest scary movie (this season, it’s the fourth installment of the Paranormal Activity franchise) hits the theaters, and in 2012, some real life drama is even injected with the arrival of the “Frankenstorm.” Amidst all the storylines, the second largest consumer holiday on the calendar, after Christmas, is an alluring holiday not just for the American public, but for business, where an entire economy is built upon our love for the spooky day.
According to the National Retail Federation, 148 million Americans take part in the festivities each year. It’s not just the candy companies who love this time of year. In its 2010 “Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey,” the Federation found that we spend an average of $66.28 per person on costumes and decorations in addition to sweets, a number which can be expected to increase as the weaker economy that has slowed consumer spending over the past few years continues to recover.
Temporary Halloween stores selling costumes and other kitsch out of available retail space pop up all over the country, and established retailers rush to expand their offerings and ad campaigns to include the Halloween theme ahead of the 31st. Another trend taking flight is restaurants, bars, and clubs cashing in by charging cover and marking up drinks during Halloween parties. Millions of dollars are at stake, and everyone wants a piece of the pumpkin pie.
The fascination with the holiday that leads us to so easily open our wallets has much to do with escapism and relief from the everyday mundane. Putting on a costume and reveling in the night is a way to forget about work and other stresses. Businesses have capitalized on our love affair with this particular celebration, but supporting a quirky little niche of the economy is all the more reason to put on our zombie makeup and enjoy being someone else for an evening.