There's nothing to be done about pint-sized zombies and princesses on the doorstep, but shoppers may be able to avoid big Halloween bills this year.
Already analysts expect spending to rise this Halloween, jumping 9% to an average of $72 per family for costumes, candy and decorations, according to the National Retail Federation. Chalk it up to enthusiasm: Almost 70% of Americans say they plan to celebrate Halloween this year, a nine-year high, says Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the NRF, and enough to push the spending figures higher. "It's no longer just a children's holiday," she says.
This year, bargain hunters will skip the specialty pop-up shops in favor of online sites, says Michelle Madhok, founder of sale-tracking site SheFinds.com. Temporary stores have to sell costumes, make-up and wigs mostly at full price, because they have a limited time to make money. But online outlets typically operate year-around, and with more of them cropping up, there's more incentive for them to compete on price. Many already have, Madhok says. Kmart has cut Halloween prices by as much as 40% online, and offers an extra $5 off a $50 purchase with code "KBOO." Costume Kingdom has 10% off any purchase, and Costume SuperCenter offers 15% off an order of $40 or more.
There's no reason to pay full-price for candy, either at least, not this year. Commodities prices for cocoa, sugar, dairy and even peanuts have been rising in recent months, says Erin Lash, an equity analyst for Morningstar, but that has yet to hit consumers. Hershey has said it will raise prices by almost 10% across its product lines, but not until March. For now, stores are still using candy as a loss-leader, offering coupons and sales in the hopes that you'll stay to buy a few more items, says Erin Gifford, a spokeswoman for grocery pricing site ZipList. Coupons.com has a deal for $1.40 off bags of Nestle or Wonka candy, and CVS is offering bags of Hershey, Nestle, Mars or Wonka candy at two-for-$4. Shoppers who are really looking to save might consider steering clear of higher-priced chocolate, Gifford says.
It's harder to save on decorations, says Grannis. Consumers are spending nearly as much on yard decorations for Halloween as they do on Christmas, says Grannis, investing in full-size skeletons and giant inflatable pumpkins. Even jack-o-lanterns are pricier this year, with poor weather and damage from Hurricane Irene generating shortages in some areas. The average farmer's market pumpkin costs $4.73 this year, up 9% from last year, according to the Department of Agriculture. Local supermarkets, which tend to ship in pumpkins, may have lower prices than local farms. Madhok says many of the online costume retailers also sell decor, too, with similarly big sales.