What do your kids want to dress up as for Halloween next month? The National Retail Federation reports that these are the five most popular costumes children plan to wear this year:
- Princess (7.9% or 3.1 million children)
- Superhero (6%, 2.4 million)
- Spider-Man (5.2%, 2 million)
- Avengers character, excluding Spider-Man (3.9%, 1.5 million)
- Batman (3.5%, 1.4 million)
We bring this up because Halloween spending offers a helpful tell on the state of the US consumer and acts as a leading indicator for Holiday spending. So how will this upcoming Halloween likely fair versus prior years? Here’s some data highlights from the NRF based on a survey of +7,400 US consumers:
- The NRF expects Americans to spend a total of $8.8 billion. That’s down from $9 billion last year, but is expected to be the third highest total spend in the survey’s 15-year history behind 2017’s record high of $9.1 billion.
- A total of 172 million Americans (52% of the population) intend on celebrating Halloween next month, down from 175 million last year. They are planning to spend an average of $86.27 versus the record of $86.79 last year, down 0.6%.
- Celebrants “plan to spend $3.2 billion on costumes (purchased by 67% of Halloween shoppers), $2.6 billion on candy (95%), $2.7 billion on decorations (72%) and $390 million on greeting cards (34%).”
- Out of those celebrating Halloween, “69% plan to hand out candy, 49% plan to decorate their home or yard, 47% will dress in costume, 44% will carve a pumpkin, 32% will throw or attend a party, 29% will take their children trick-or-treating, 22% will visit a haunted house and 17% will dress their pets in costume.”
- Most important commentary in the report: “The ongoing trade war with China is causing uncertainty among American consumers, and 14% of those surveyed said their concerns about the economy would impact their Halloween plans. Most Halloween merchandise was in the country before 15% tariffs on consumer goods took effect September 1.”
As for what we think this data means for the US economy, a few closing points:
- We attribute fewer people celebrating Halloween largely to demographics, which helps explain why the total spend continues to fall. Halloween is mostly celebrated by children trick-or-treating or young adults at parties. With an aging US demographic, we can understand why the number of people observing the holiday falls slightly each year.
- That said, the ongoing US-China trade war has clearly dampened consumer sentiment. While 2018 did not post a new record for total spend, it was only down slightly from 2017’s peak. That the NRF expects another $200 million decline in total spend this year shows the ripple effects of trade uncertainty.
- Halloween is an entirely discretionary holiday ahead of major holiday events, such as Black Friday and Christmas shopping. If consumers are already worried about the trade war impacting their Halloween plans, this could spell trouble for holiday spending in November and December. That’s bad news for retailers, who largely depend on sales during those two months to make their year.
Bottom line: we don’t think this data portends a US recession in the near-term, but it does show how much a US-China trade deal needs to get done. US consumers remain one bright spot for US public companies in terms of revenue, so it’s imperative that they do not start pulling back now.