The Business of Scary

Consumers, advertisers beginning to "embrace" horror

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Halloween has been transformed into a multi-billion-dollar business, according to figures compiled by cable network FEARnet. In 2011, Halloween-related spending neared $7 billion, up from $3.29 billion in 2005.

This year, the average person will spend $72.31 on costumes, candy and decorations, and will have an estimated 15,000 pop-up Halloween stores to choose from. Costume sales alone for the 41 million potential trick-or-treaters are expected to rake in $1 billion for children's costumes, $1.21 billion for adult costumes and $310 million for pet costumes. And the candy industry stands to make 23% of its annual candy sales during Halloween--the largest of any selling season.

Of the people taking part in the holiday festivities, 43.9% plan to dress in costume; 34.4% plan to throw or attend parties; 49.5% plan to decorate their home or yard; 14.7% plan to dress pets in costumes; 73.5% plan to hand out candy; 47.8% plan to carve pumpkins; and 32.9% plan to take children trick-or-treating; 22.9% plan to visit haunted houses, heading out to one of the 300 theme parks, zoos, aquariums and other entertainment venues holding special Halloween events this season.

According to the Haunted House Association, these events stand to generate between $150 million and $200 million in annual revenue for their respective venues.

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"People have been selling scares for a long time," said Peter Block, president and general manager of FEARnet. "That's why it surprises me that more people don't realize that this genre isn't just a Halloween business; it's a lifestyle. There's a reason adults spend so much money on costumes each year. We want to revisit what we loved as children. And it transcends cinema, with music, fashion and decor, allowing people to integrate themselves as much or as little as they want."

He added, "This genre is a passion, and there's no on/off switch for people's passions--it doesn't just start up during October and fade away once November arrives. There's a constant thirst for it. People love being scared, and they love being scared together--to be able to experience that feeling with others, to share that communal scream. We're seeing this addressed more and more, especially on TV, where just about every network has a genre show."

Continued Block: "Horror's standing in society has always been up and down, with many advertisers choosing to stay away from it. But, right now, it's something to be embraced, and advertising is beginning to reflect this, with shows like The Walking Dead being used in marketing campaigns.

(See Related Content below for CSP Daily News coverage of the National Retail Federation's 2012 Halloween consumer spending survey.)