From Forbes on October 5, 2016:
While this year’s presidential election is shaping up to be one of the most divisive match-ups in recent history, it appears that Halloween will unite consumers across all party lines this year. Seven out of ten Americans are set to celebrate on or around October 31 with planned spending on costumes, candy, decorations, and greeting cards expected to reach $82.93 per household ($8.4 billion total), a record high. So why are consumers eager to scare up some fun this year? For more than a decade, Prosper Insights & Analytics has been surveying U.S. adults on their Halloween plans for the National Retail Federation and new analysis reveals that presidential election years prove to be pivotal for scaring up Halloween spending among shoppers.
In the years following the Great Recession, consumer spending in general has been uneven. At the best of times, consumers have been characterized as cautiously optimistic when it came to spending hard earned dollars, but have been quick to snap their wallets shut when they sensed uncertainty within the broader economy. However, Halloween spending is one of the few occasions which seems to have bucked the overall trend. While planned expenditures for Halloween dipped in 2009 – during the worst of economic downturn – they recovered relatively quickly in the years following, and in 2012, reached new high of $79.82 per household ($8 billion total).
So why did consumers increasingly gravitate toward Halloween during such financial and economic uncertainty? One word: escapism. For a relatively inexpensive financial outlay – Halloween spending represents a small fraction of what consumers spend for the winter holiday season – Americans seized the opportunity to become someone (or something) else and forget their troubles for a night. Further, this need to escape seems to be magnified during presidential election years. Recall that 2012 was the year Mitt Romney challenged President Obama and now in 2016, as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump vie for voter support, planned Halloween spending has broken the record set four years prior. Not-so-coincidentally, 2008 (Obama vs. McCain) was poised to be a banner year for Halloween spending as well. Interestingly, the 2004 contest for the Oval Office (Bush vs. Kerry) didn’t seem to boost interest in Halloween, so it appears that economic troubles and presidential elections are working in tandem in Halloween’s favor – the perfect storm of frustration and uncertainty needed to give consumers a reason to escape their everyday lives for a bit.
Another factor supporting adults’ desire to use Halloween as an escape is their increasing willingness to dress in costume, a trend which, like spending, has been accelerating since the Great Recession, reaching new highs during the 2008, 2012, and 2016 presidential election years. This year, nearly half (47.1%) of Halloween celebrants plan to dress in costume, rising almost 10% over 2015 and the highest level in our survey’s 14 year history.
As one might expect, political costumes also tend to peak in popularity during presidential elections (ranking #8 among adult costumes this year), so expect to see plenty of comb-overs and colorful pantsuits among celebrants this year. However, with more traditional options likes witches (#1), vampires (#4), pirates (#6), zombies (#10), and slasher movie villains (#11) remaining favorites, not all costumes will be of the frightening political variety.