How Big is the Business of Halloween?

October 31st is scary business

Halloween is approaching. The weather is changing with frost covering morning lawns during crisp mornings followed by beautiful sunny afternoons. The leaves are changing, football fills the weekends, commuters sip pumpkin spice lattes, and Americans spent A LOT of money. Families scramble to find costumes, take trips to pumpkin patches, attend haunted houses and decorate. What were once fun traditions many view as a transition into the “real” holiday season has now become a billion-dollar industry – and it is scary!


So how did we get to this point – A time to decorate our houses to scare little kids and spend family time at the pumpkin patch. For a night, kids and adults alike able to transform into any superhero or ghoul.  Where did it start and how has Halloween evolved?

Halloween is not just an American holiday. Halloween is celebrated in a number of countries, many with different traditions. It is on the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day dedicated to remembering the dead. Most agree the traditions originated from Celtic ancient harvest festivals with pagan roots, dating back centuries. While different versions of Halloween were celebrated across Europe, it was not until the mid-19th century that it became a major holiday in America, primarily celebrated by Irish and Scottish immigrant communities. By the early 1900s Halloween was celebrated by all social, racial and religious backgrounds from coast-to-coast in the United States.  Follow this with a blossoming middle class, The Great Pumpkin, 1980s horror movies, and Halloween has evolved to the spectacle it is today.


In 2013, Melissa Carbone entered the popular television show Shark Tank on ABC with an opportunity to pitch multi-millionaire tycoons to invest in her startup, Ten Thirty One Productions – a company that “creates, owns and produces live attractions in the horror space.” Carbone creates intricate, modern-day haunted houses on a huge scale with hundreds of actors and complex props. Billionaire Mark Cuban swept in to offer Carbone $2 million dollars for 20 percent of her company – the largest deal Cuban has every made on the show. The billionaire investor and owner of the Dallas Mavericks saw the opportunity to invest in the growing business of Halloween. 

How big is the business of Halloween?

According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, Americans spent a total of $8.4 billion on Halloween in 2016. This was up $1.5 billion from the prior year. This translates into an average $82.93 per consumer for the 171 million Americans who participated last year.

Americans like to spend on Halloween. NRF predicts 179 million Americans will participate in the festivities this year bringing the total amount to $9.1 billion. What may be the scariest part about this – 10 percent of Americans dress their pet for Halloween. With these increases, there are reasons temporary Halloween stores pop up in old Kmarts, Albertsons and unused box stores on every corner. 


Novelist Ann Hood said, “We were a family that made our Halloween costumes. Or, more accurately, my mother made them. She took no suggestions or advice. Halloween costumes were her territory. She was the brain behind my brother’s winning girl costume, stuffing her own bra with newspapers for him to wear under a cashmere sweater and smearing red lipstick on his lips.” 

Gone are the days of throwing a sheet over your son’s head and saying he is a ghost. From decorations, pumpkin patches, haunted houses and costumes, there seems to be no end to the amount Americans are spending on Halloween. From corporations to the local pumpkin patch, Halloween is big business and the growth is scary.

Categories: Consumer, Industry Trends