Halloween goes ‘over the top’ with record spending and spooky, nostalgic décor

Consumer shopping trends indicate solid winter holiday sales
Fiona Soltes
NRF Contributor
September 27, 2023
Halloween Trends

Learn more about how consumers are celebrating Halloween this year.

Halloween has traditionally been a strong retail holiday. But with expanded offerings, earlier-than-ever availability and consumers seeking a fun environment for themselves and their families, this year’s holiday spending looks, well, frightfully good.

A record 73% of consumers plan to celebrate Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual Halloween consumer survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. That’s up from 69% last year. Consumers will spend an unprecedented $108.24 per person, up from the previous record of $102.74 in 2021.

They’re not just spending on candy and costumes: 77% of those celebrating the holiday expect to buy decorations, with total spending in that category anticipated to be $3.9 billion. Halloween spending overall is expected to be $12.2 billion, up from $10.6 billion last year.

Home is where the fun is

Stefanie Lucas, president of Qurate home décor and furnishings brand Grandin Road, says consumers started decorating more for themselves in 2020 when they couldn’t gather with others. Along the way, they’ve continued to look for value.

“What’s changed these last few years, post-COVID, is that people are going all out on décor,” she says. “They are decorating for themselves now as much as for others. They want their home to be a place of fun, inspiration and creativity. People are still nesting, but nesting looks quite different. It’s more ebullient, it’s bigger, more over the top.”

Grandin Road’s “Majestic Headless Horseman” is a prime example. The animated, ominous statue stands five feet tall and comes complete with a background soundtrack and flickering jack-o’-lantern.

Headless horseman

“Talk about a great photo op!” Lucas says. “He’s exceptionally unique and adds a spooky element outside or inside, so he goes anywhere you want him to.”

In addition, she says, décor with a nostalgic feel is resonating this season, including those classic jack-o’-lanterns and hay bales. The over-the-top theme applies here, too, with “layers of pumpkins, mums and lanterns,” she says. “When it comes to front door décor, the more the merrier.”

And, apparently, the sooner the better. Grandin Road started its 2023 Halloween season with a sneak peek in June, followed by a website go-live on July 6. Some consumers shop early in the season, she says, but the biggest surge happens after back-to-school.

The company looks at data holistically to track consumer demand, she says, including what interests people each week of the season.

“We want to know what they are searching for, and we look at unique items or themes to define trends,” Lucas says. “We’re constantly inspired by what the consumer is doing in order to create new, exciting and exclusive collections.”

Searching for deals, inspiration

For some, that means mixing the new with the already-on-hand. The NRF data shows that 32% of consumers expect to reuse Halloween items from previous years. In addition, discount stores will be the top destination to buy Halloween items for 40% of shoppers.

Dollar General Corporation, with more than 19,000 stores in 47 states, will likely be on the list. Katie Ellison, senior manager, public relations, says the company recently completed a chain-wide rollout of its non-consumable initiative, “which includes a more robust selection of seasonal merchandise including fall, harvest, Halloween, Thanksgiving, winter and December holiday items.”

For Halloween specifically, Ellison says, “Playing off the 2022 popularity of the giant skeleton, we leaned into skeletons and skulls this year. Decoratives like a skeleton shelf sitter, skeleton hands in the shape of a heart, skull planter, skull tea light and large skeleton canvas are examples of our fun and trendy take on the Halloween season.”

Halloween decoration

The company’s new Popshelf brand was born from the success of Dollar General’s non-consumable initiative, featuring a “fun, on-trend and rotating selection of seasonal items,” with the majority priced under $5.

Lowe’s, meanwhile, is presenting its largest offering of Halloween products to date, according to a holiday lookbook. That includes pneumatically powered animated items and a larger-than-life “Rockstar Reaper” guitarist and drummer that connect to a cell phone via Bluetooth for Halloween playlists. 

Lowe’s reports seeing an increase in holiday décor searches as early as July. Earlier-than-ever access to all kinds of holiday shopping is the result; faux trees, wreaths, garlands and family-favorite inflatables began appearing in stores in early September, and online before that.

Regardless of the retailer, social media plays a big role when it comes to inspiration. Consumers scan Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest for costume and décor ideas. Grandin Road gets in on the fun by hosting an annual “Bring Home the Haunt” photo and video contest on Instagram, allowing consumers to show off their style. There’s also a drag-and-drop option on the company website for designing the ideal front door.

A harbinger of winter holiday spending

Katherine Cullen, NRF vice president of industry and consumer insights, says Halloween was originally geared toward kids and trick-or-treating, but has since expanded to include all ages, as well as pets. From a retail perspective, it’s an important holiday to watch.

“Halloween may tell us how consumers are feeling about commemorating special events throughout the year,” Cullen says. “Is this something consumers are prioritizing, even in the face of inflation, as they cut back in other areas of their lives?”

The key difference is that Halloween isn’t a holiday associated with gifts. “There’s a different intent behind what consumers are doing, what they’re looking for, what they’re buying,” Cullen says.

Halloween Data Center

Visit NRF's Halloween Data Center to learn about the holiday spending this year.

In addition, though many consumers shop online, Halloween still tends to be more of a store-driven holiday, she says. “And as people spend more on décor and other ways of commemorating the holiday, they’ll broaden the shops they go to.”

Early product reveals and early shopping for Halloween are in line with other major retail seasons, Cullen says, such as back-to-school.

“We know that people are spreading out their budgets and giving themselves more time to shop for sales and inspiration, as well as to avoid some stress,” she says. “That doesn’t mean people won’t still be shopping and picking up things last minute. They’re just getting in the mindset earlier.”

Cullen maintains a bit of caution thanks to inflation and other economic factors. That said, with record spending during most holidays and major events so far this year, Halloween looks to be a monster retail holiday all its own. Bring on the treats!

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