October 30, 2008 in City

shoppers not spooked

Local retailers say Halloween business booming despite frightening economy
By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photo

While their babysitter, Trina Lucas, shops for a Halloween costume, 2-year-old twins Elsie, front, and Nyla Hess keep a watchful eye out for ghosts and goblins haunting Value Village in Spokane on Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)

Sarah Palin has been flying out the door, with nurses and police officers in hot pursuit. Tombstones and bats are popular, too.

When it comes to spending on Halloween costumes, candy and decorations, Inland Northwest shoppers aren’t pinching pennies, retailers say.

“Oh my gosh, it’s been so busy this year,” said Sherry Anderson, manager of Value Village, 708 W. Boone Ave., where bargain-hungry Spokane residents have long sought costumes. “On Saturday we had more than 1,000 customers, and that is a lot for us.”

The National Retail Federation predicts that the average consumer will spend $66.54 on Halloween this year, up barely $2 from last year. Across the country, werewolf wannabes and pirate impersonators are expected to spend a total of $5.77 billion, shelling out an average of $24.17 on costumes, $20.39 on candy, $18.25 on decorations and $3.73 on greeting cards.

At Value Village, pirate costumes and, for kids, Batman gear have been popular, said Lauren Green, who’s working her third Halloween season as a costume coordinator, helping shoppers create outfits out of the store’s new and used clothing.

“And a lot of people want to dress up like someone from the ’80s,” she said. “You can do that very cheaply here.”

Shoppers don’t seem overly cautious about spending, though many talk about sticking to a budget, Green said.

“They come in saying they do not want to spend money,” Green said, “but then they end up getting excited about it, and they spend a little bit anyhow.”

Sales are strong at Spokane-based Display House, too. The retailer has been selling Halloween costumes since the early 1980s.“We’re not quite at the busiest (time) yet, but we’re getting there,” Nick Jones said of his family’s business. “Last year, we hit big sales a bit earlier because Halloween was on a Wednesday – but people are coming in more and more.”

This year, Jones said, the popularity of home decorations suggests more people are planning parties – maybe because Halloween falls on a Friday.

The only sign he has seen that consumers may be a bit more budget-conscious are compromises he hears people making, Jones said.

“People will say, ‘If we get this, then we’ll go to one party instead of two, or we won’t go out for dinner,’ ” Jones said.

Along with costumes, creepy décor and cards, people may be spending on pumpkins, too.

Mark Morrell, who’s owned Walter’s Fruit Ranch at Green Bluff for 15 years with his wife, Arlene, figures business is a little better than average.

“I think people make shorter trips instead of longer ones, so we’ve been more busy in terms of how many people come up here,” he said.

Apple sales are up, but the pies have been the biggest hit for Walter’s.

“So far, we’ve made 13,000 handmade pies this year, and they are going fast,” Morrell said.

Contact Pia Hallenberg Christensen at (509) 459-5427 or piah@spokesman.com.

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