Halloween Retail Sales Rise From Dead

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Less than a week before Halloween, the scariest aspect of this holiday isn't how many revelers will attempt to stitch cube steaks into Lady Gaga meat dresses, but how much cash consumers will leave at costume and candy counters this year.

Not including the $41.5 million pre-Halloween horror fans spent watching the scared-yuppies-with-cameras Viacom ( VIA) horror flick Paranormal Activity 2 this weekend, the National Retail Federation expects Halloween spending to hover around $5.8 billion this year, up from $4.75 billion last year. Research firm IBISWorld throws the kids a few more pieces of candy with its $6.2 billion season estimate, 3.9% higher than the group's spending total from last year.

Companies with a stake in the holiday are already taking in more treats than they were before last Halloween. Hershey ( HSY) reported last week that its third-quarter net income of $182.9 million heading into Halloween was a 9% improvement from the same period last year -- helped by such offerings as Hershey's Drops and Reese's Minis -- while its $1.55 billion in revenue was beneath analysts' estimates but still 4% greater than last year's total. Meanwhile, Dedham, Mass.-based retailer iParty ( IPT) showed pop-up retailers there's nothing to fear this season by reporting a 3% revenue increase in the third quarter and a 1.4% improvement in same-store sales in 62 stores, up from 54 last year.

Those gains should inflate like a tacky vinyl black cat lawn ornament, as IBIS World projects costume spending will rise 4.2% from last year, to $2.3 billion. That includes the 40.1% of consumers the NRF says will be dressing up as zombies and sexy janitors this year and the 11.5% who will be forcing their pets into costumes later this week. Roughly 55% of those costumes will come from pop-up shops, which IBISWorld notes have increased a hordelike 15%, to 15,000 stores this year, from 13% last year -- while eBay ( EBAY), Amazon ( AMZN) and other online outlets will account for 22% of the uninspired, boxed outfits this year.

Hershey, Tootsie Roll, Kraft and other candy makers should see a sweet return this year as well, with the NRF predicting a spike in candy sales to $1.77 billion from $1.52 billion. IBISWorld, meanwhile, sees a 7.4% spike, to $1.9 million, in candy sales as 75% of U.S. households hand out candy.

M&M's, Charleston Chew and a seemingly bottomless supply of candy corn will be supplemented by $1.6 billion in cobwebs, cauldrons and other creepy decorations and $346 million in greetings cards. Altogether, according to the NRF, Americans plan to spend an average $66.28 this year, well above last year's $56.31 and on par with 2008's record $66.54. IBISWorld's 13% climb in carveable pumpkin sales and 25% increase in canned pumpkin purchases only complete Halloween's return from the dead.

--Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.

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