Halloween may bring out the ghost, ghouls, and goblins in all of us, but it is the grown-ups who seem to be flocking to fright night in droves.
No longer relegated to a one-day celebration on Oct. 31, Halloween is now its own spooktacular season as pumpkins and skeletons start haunting store shelves after Labor Day. When all of the cobwebs are dusted off, a whopping $5 billion will have been spent on the holiday in 2007, with the average American shelling out $64.82 on costumes, candy, and decorations. That's up nearly $6 from last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Overall, Halloween is the second-biggest holiday behind Christmas in home-decorating sales, and the sixth-biggest retail holiday for overall sales.
Trendspotters say Halloween-crazed adults have been driving much of that spending for the past five years, although no one knows why grown-ups love this holiday so much. Some muse that Halloween's popularity is part of the post-September 11 nesting craze. Richard Laermer, author of 2011: Trendspotting for the Next Decade, says fantasy is absolutely crucial for stressed-out adults right now. "The idea of pretending is something that we all just realized is not only possible, but absolutely essential," Laermer says.
Others say grown-ups simply embrace Halloween to have some much-needed fun: "Halloween is a holiday that brings out the kid in all of us," says Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Del. "It allows us to be mischievous, adventurous, and creative." Talk about getting into the holiday spirit: This year Dogfish produced 35,000 cases of its Punkin Ale beer, which is brewed with pumpkin meat and brown sugar.
Candymakers, meanwhile, are creating sophisticated indulgences that go well beyond the standard fare of candy corn. At chocolate giant Godiva, a unit of Campbell Soup (CPB), impulse shoppers can gorge, for $4.50 each, on a fresh strawberry dipped in white chocolate and designed to look like a ghost. "Adults seem to love the fun aspects of Halloween, even more than children," says Erica Lapidus, Godiva's head of public relations and promotion.
As for other treats, the Great Pumpkin's got nothing on the $50 pumpkin shells filled with milk or dark chocolate-covered caramelized almonds available at La Maison du Chocolat, a high-end French chocolatier. But you'll have to go on a witch hunt to find other boxed chocolates whimsically decorated with pumpkins and owls. La Maison du Chocolat's store in New York's Rockefeller Center sold out of all 400 of these molded $20 treats in two weeks, according to Nora Hovanesian-Mann, La Maison du Chocolat's director of New York operations.
Home and Body Decor
The Halloween-induced sugar high seems to be fueling a festive spirit, too, as more adults go wild with outlandish decor. Some of the best-selling decorations at retailing giant Target (TGT) include a life-size witch that lights up and delivers spooky shrieks. Tombstones, meanwhile, are a big hit at Party City, another retail chain. "They are very affordable, and they don't take up a lot of space," says Bill Furtkevic, Party City's vice-president of marketing.
Godiva's research shows that two-thirds of its customers are planning Halloween parties this year, up from 50% in 2006.
No Halloween party is complete without a costume, of course. Retailers say pirate getups are among the biggest sellers this year for men. "Our most popular costume is Captain Jack Sparrow," Furtkevic says of the character from Walt Disney's (DIS) Pirates of the Caribbean films. "The guys, at least, want to be Johnny Depp," he says. Women, meanwhile, are buzzing to be honeybees and ladybugs, Furtkevic adds.
At Target men are flocking to animal costumes, including gorillas, while women are buying Wonder Woman and queen costumes, according to Lena Michaud, a Target spokeswoman.
One of those pirates, superheroes, or furry creatures might even show up at your office on Oct. 31: According to a new survey by Vault.com, 27% of employees dress up in costume. Your boss in a gorilla suit? Now that's a scary prospect.
Click here to see a bagful of Halloween goodies for grown-ups.