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The Economics of a COVID-19 Halloween

Trick-or-treating might be canceled this year, but Halloween is still going on.

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Is it going to be a bone-chilling Halloween for retailers, or a frightful season of riches? The coronavirus pandemic has possessed every corner of the economy, turning the marketplace into a graveyard of business closures and broke consumers. While little goblins and ghouls might not be allowed to request households for a trick or a treat, Americans might still be in the gruesome, grisly, and ghoulish spirit.

The Economics of a COVID-19 Halloween

Will anyone disembowel the idea that 2020 has already been the scariest year in a long time? But it appears that the shock and horror of 2020 will not dampen consumers’ specters, says the world’s largest retail trade association.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Americans are estimated to spend $8.05 billion on Halloween, down 8.3% from last year. The projections show that 58% plan to celebrate the spooky tradition, spending a little more than $92 per person, which is surprisingly up from $86.27 in 2019.

What are shoppers expected to buy?

  • Candy: 96%
  • Costumes: 65%
  • Decorations: 75%
  • Greeting Cards: 40%

The top celebration plans include dressing up, carving pumpkins, decorating the house, and handing out candy (if there are any kids).

Stores, meanwhile, are adapting to changing consumer behavior for Halloween this year. Many retailers are anticipating higher sales through their websites, optimizing their eCommerce pages and social media channels to offset the losses from in-store receipts.

The History of Halloween Spending

Halloween has always been one of the most lucrative seasons of the year for retailers. Since 2016, total U.S. consumer spending on the annual spooktacular has ranged between $8.4 billion and $9.1 billion. The average spending per buyer has also exceeded $80 annually for the last four years.

It is situated perfectly: shortly after the back-to-school shopping season and soon before the trifecta of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. As a result, some market observers believe Halloween sales can indicate how well retailers could perform during the holiday shopping season. Last year, approximately one-third started their Christmas shopping before November.

Because the U.S. economy relies mostly on the consumer, retail trends are critical signals for the success or failure of the broader economy.

Everyone Deserves a Little Scare

“It’s Halloween, everyone’s entitled to one good scare.”

That line may be from the classic horror picture, Halloween, but it also sums up life in 2020. People need a distraction from this year’s macabre.

Steven Silverstein, President and CEO of Spirit Halloween, wrote on NRF’s blog:

“The magic of Halloween is transformative. We need this now more than ever. It brings sheer fun and joy for families, especially for the kids. That is the beauty of Halloween – it’s stress-free and designed to be outdoors. It’s a celebration and opportunity to transform into whoever or whatever you want to be.”

Whether you are spending money on lavish decorations or you are staying home and watching the classic Universal horror films of the 1930s, this one-day event can help take your mind off the stress, anxiety, and dread that have been the themes of 2020. You do not need to spend a dime to enjoy Halloween, but you do need to let out a bloodcurdling scream. Perhaps you can take a gander at the recent number of bankruptcies across the country.

Economics Correspondent at and Andrew has written extensively on economics, business, and political subjects for the last decade. He also writes about economics at Economic Collapse News and commodities at He is the author of “The War on Cash.” You can learn more at

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