Looks like there's no rush to load up on candy corn: The nation's leading retail group is forecasting a depressing dip in next month's Halloween spending. The National Retail Federation, in its survey of consumer spending plans, predicts that people will spend just $56.31 on Halloween, down from $66.54 last year.
The spending decline is a good indication of the recession's wet-blanket powers: Last Halloween, just a few weeks after the stock-markets' massive meltdown, consumers actually were counting on more costume-and-candy therapy to feel better. Last year, for example, 64.5% of consumers said they planned to get ghostly somehow, up sharply from 58.7% in 2007. This year, just 62.1% plan to celebrate somehow.
Total spending for Halloween this year will come in around $4.75 billion, NRF predicts.
"The economy has caught up to Halloween this year," says Tracy Mullin, the trade group's president and CEO, in a statement. "Since retailers know that Americans will be looking to celebrate on a budget, there's no doubt we will see creative costume and decorating ideas in every price point imaginable."
Some 30% of consumers say the scary state of the economy is casting a ghoulish shadow on their spending plans, with 88% saying they plan to spend less overall. That's bad news for marketers all around: 46.5% of consumers say they will spend less on candy, 35.4% say they won't buy new decorations, 16.8% say they will make costumes instead of buying them, and 15.8% say they are recycling last year's look. About 26% say they will forego things like haunted houses or fall festivals.
Only 33.4% will dress up -- down from 35.3% last year -- and 42.2% will make a Jack-o-Lantern, down from 44.6% last year. Even the percentage of people who plan to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters has slid a bit: Just 71.2% will do so, compared with 73.7% last year.
Young adults, typically the big spenders, are cutting back even more sharply: The average 18- to-24-year-old will spend $68.56 on the holiday, compared to $86.59 last year and $81.91 back in 2007. "For them, this year's theme will be 'How creative can I be, and how little can I spend?,'" the NRF says.
But there may be brighter days elsewhere in retailers' fourth quarter: The International Council of Shopping Centers, another large trade group, is predicting a slight uptick of 1% in holiday spending. Both the NRF and Deloitte have projected a flat winter holiday period for stores.