Halloween candy sales sending good economic signals

Greg Hadley and Julie Verhage
Detroit News wire services
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U.S. consumers don’t have to dress up for Halloween — they’re already superheroes of the 2016 economy.

A number of economic factors are helping the consumer this year, and a new report from IHS Global Insights highlights how the amount expected to be spent on Halloween candy is a perfect symbol of that strength.

“Overall, real consumer spending has been relatively strong since last Halloween due to modest consumer price inflation, low gasoline prices, better employment opportunities, and improved household finances,” Chris Christopher, IHS Global Insights’ director of consumer economics points out.

In fact, the team expects spending on Halloween candy to experience the strongest increase since 2011, rising 5.5 and hitting $3.8 billion. In 2014 and 2015, spending on Halloween candy was up 5 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively. The report defined spending on Halloween candy as estimated October personal consumption expenditures, seasonally adjusted, on candy and chewing gum.

The additional spending isn’t due to an increase in the prices of Halloween candy, either, as prices are expected to decline for the first time since 2013.

Since last Halloween, unemployment has stayed near 5 percent, wages have been rising at a faster clip, and gasoline prices are up a mere 3 cents. “Many households have been using their pump price relief to pay down debt, save a little bit more, and dine out,” Christopher adds. Looks like buying more Halloween candy is another popular place to spend some of the extra cash.

According to a recent study from the National Retail Federation, 171 million adult Americans, or 69.1 percent of the population, plan to celebrate Halloween this year.

By comparison, the last time even just 60 percent of the voting-age population cast ballots in a presidential election was 1968, and the record for voter turnout is 131,313,820, in 2008. Earlier this month, it was reported that a record 200 million voters were registered, but even if 85 percent of those registered actually voted, which would be a record, that would still fall just short of 171 million.

But this is hardly a new trend. In 2012, NRF reported that 170 million people planned to celebrate Halloween, while not even 130 million people voted. And in 2008, 64.5 percent of Americans said they would be partying in some way on Oct. 31, but just 58 percent of eligible adults turned out to the polling stations.

Americans are set to spend a record $8.4 billion total on Halloween this year. That breaks the record from 2012. On the whole, spending has increased since the Great Recession in 2008. Especially in the past few years, the rise of the pumpkin-themed market has boosted the Halloween economy. Sales of more than $500 million expected in 2016, according to Quartz.

The election will also show up in plenty of Halloween costumes. According to the federation, among those 35 years or older, dressing up as a politician is the third most popular costume choice of the year.

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