- Halloween spending may reach a record high this year.
- That spending is driven by costumes and candy, both of which are increasingly inspired by pop culture properties.
- Kids’ costume preferences compared with their parents’ reveal the growing influence of technology.
This year, consumers are expected to spend a record $US9.1 billion on Halloween products, according to the National Retail Federation, an 8.3% increase on last year’s total. Of that, consumers plan to spend $US6.1 billion on candy and costumes.
This is good news for the retail industry, as is the fact that consumers plan to do a significant majority of their Halloween shopping in stores, a rare break from the industry’s trend toward online purchases. Just 22.3% of consumers say they plan to do their Halloween shopping online this year, while the rest will frequent discount, department, grocery, and even dedicated Halloween stores.
“I think for Halloween, it’s more a consistent tradition of going in-store,” Molly Jacobson, the director of marketing for Frankford Candy, told Business Insider. “I would assume that a consumer is going to the grocery store, making their weekly grocery fill-up and buying their bag of candy for Halloween at the same time, or hopping into the drug store and buying their big bag of Halloween candy while they’re buying something else.”
Millennials, teens, and children have shown an affinity for licensed candy and costumes in recent years, and companies have taken notice.
“As retail becomes more difficult, the more ways brands can bring their products into different aisles in the store and different usage occasions back home allows that brand recognition to become even broader and allows the loyal consumer to become even more loyal in new and different ways,” Jacobson said. This benefits the store as well, as customers are more likely to develop loyalty to retailers they know will stock items from their favourite pop culture properties.
The influence of brand licensing has had a profound effect on the costume industry, where both children and millennials increasingly favour costumes inspired by characters from films and television shows, rather than traditional Halloween favourites like witches and zombies.
The NRF found that four out of the five most popular costume ideas for children were based on existing pop culture properties, while the same was true for just two of the five most popular ideas for adults.
This rift likely extends from the difference in media consumption patterns between adults, whose entertainment consumption was regulated by the schedules of television stations and movie theatres, and children who have grown up with smart devices that allow them to access films, games, and videos featuring their favourite characters on-demand.
“There’s definitely more consciousness of pop culture now,” Mark Seavy, the publications editor for the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA), told Business Insider. “You actually have a lot of retail chains that when things didn’t go so well are starting to try to sell more collectible items and things like that.”
While children purchase the majority of Halloween costumes, millennials have become an important market for costume producers and retailers because the costumes they favour are more expensive and bring in more total revenue than those purchased for children.
“You’re seeing more of the adult costumes being sold these days,” Seavy said, “because there’s more content out there, more content that relates to an older audience.” Seavy mentioned characters from the television shows “Stranger Things” and “Rick and Morty” and the remake of “It” as some of this year’s most popular licensed costumes, as well as traditional favourites like Wonder Woman and Harry Potter.
While licensed costumes have always been popular during Halloween, Seavy believes their increasing prominence has been driven by the rising number of media properties and distribution platforms. “I think it’s increased in the last two to three years because there’s more content out there to licence,” he said. “It’s not just TV and movies anymore. It’s streaming services, it’s YouTube personalities, it’s all kinds of social media. There’s a lot that comes into play now. There’s a lot more content out there to be had.”