Halloween Tricks Bring Economic Treats

BOSTON (MainStreet) -- Halloween these days is as much about filing coffers as empty coffins.

The scariest numbers this October may be upcoming jobs reports and perhaps your 401(k) statement. The digits associated with the spooky holiday, by contrast, may bring smiles more so than shrieks.
Halloween pulls its own weight when it comes to adding some welcome spending to the U.S. economy.

As is the case with many holidays, plenty of folks are taking a look at the financial impact Halloween can have on retailers and customers. A far cry from Christmas for retailers, or airlines at Thanksgiving, Halloween nevertheless pulls its own weight when it comes to adding some welcome spending.

We took a look at some of the statistics and projections conjured up for this year's horror-filled holiday.

The normally dry U.S. Census Bureau can always be expected to spice up holidays with some creative interpretations of population data.

It estimates a potential 41 million trick-or-treaters hitting the streets this Halloween, basing its assumption on the number of U.S. residents between the ages of 5 and 14. Along their way, they will have the choice of nearly 117 million occupied housing units, even though a good number of these potential stops will risk getting egged by not keeping a bowl by the door.

Though not included by the census bureau, there's an estimated 1.3 million homes lost to foreclosure this year (according to RealtyTrac, a company that tracks foreclosure activity) and nearly 8 million shuttered since the housing crisis began that could cut into the number of available porches.

Some suggestions as to where to find the nation's scariest streets might, according to the Census Bureau, include Transylvania County, N.C. (pop. 33,090); Tombstone, Ariz. (pop. 1,380) and Skull Creek, Neb. (pop. 271).

Nearly 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkin products were produced last year, according to the USDA, including 427 million pounds by growers in Illinois alone.

Be prepared to pay more for your gourds, however. The one-two punch of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee destroyed pumpkin crops throughout the Northeast, as did drought conditions in Texas. That's led to a supply and demand situation and some Canadian growers, tapped to fill the need, upping their pumpkin prices as much as 50%. Domestically, some parts of the country have seen pumpkin prices double.

In 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 1,177 manufacturers in the U.S. made chocolate products, employing 34,252 people. California led the nation in the number of these businesses, with 135.

More than 35 million pounds of candy corn, the waxy treat best consumed by the fistful, will be made this year, according to the National Confectioners Association. That equates to nearly 9 billion pieces, enough to circle the moon nearly 21 times if laid end-to-end.

On Halloween night, the majority (52%) of those providing treats to costumed kiddies will be passing out chocolate, while three in 10 will drop hard candy or lollipops into the sacks, according to the NCA. Sixty-two percent of adults will be handing out a particular candy brand because "it's a personal favorite" or, for 53%, because it's a "household tradition." About 26% of households will distribute full-size candy bars. For parents who swipe a piece or two out of their kid's treat bags, their least favorite item to find is licorice.

Good economic news comes from the National Retail Federation. It claims that 161 million people, young and old, will celebrate Halloween this year, the highest number they have recorded during nine years of tracking the holiday's spending. Consumers are expected to spend a total of $6.9 billion, with the average person paying $72.31 for decorations, costumes and candy.

Americans will spend $1 billion on children's costumes, up from $840 million last year. Adults are projected to spend even more, upward of $1.2 billion. As much as $2 billion will be spent on candy and another $310 million will go toward dressing up pets.

The estimates are based on a poll of 9,374 consumers nationwide conducted last month.

In its annual Halloween Shopping Survey, Value Village, a global thrift retailer based in Washington state, crunched out its own estimates for what people will spend on costumes. It says a family of four can expect to spend $300 on costumes, decorations and other holiday items. There is some measure of frugality though: More than half (54%) of people planning to dress up this year will either combine new and secondhand items or make their costume by hand to save money.

To outfit their pet, the average owner will spend $59, more than the $32 Value Village respondents said they would spend on a child.

-- Written by Joe Mont in Boston.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Joe Mont.

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