Halloween Metrics

Halloween PumpkinHalloween statistics can be scary.

According to a survey of 8,526 people conducted by BIGresearch for the National Retail Federation (NRF), consumers spent an average of $56.31 on Halloween in 2009, down 15% from $66.54 last year. The survey blames the economy, citing that nearly a third of consumers said the economy negatively impacted their Halloween plans.

It sounds like a reasonable conclusion except that, according to the previous year’s survey, Halloween spending in 2008 increased as compared to 2007. Since Halloween 2008 came only 6 weeks after the economic melt down, I would have expected it to have been impacted. Last year, the same survey described Halloween as a way for consumers to escape from the uncertainties of daily life and to let loose during an otherwise tense period. Why the different interpretation this year?

As usual, summary statistics can mask some interesting underlying trends. Hidden in the details is one potential clue to this phenomena. 18-24 year-olds disproportionately impact Halloween results, traditionally spending 30% more than the yearly average. In 2008, they spent $86.59 on average, continuing this tradition. However, 18-24 year-olds averaged $68.56 in 2009, about 25% less than the previous year. Apparently, it took an extra year for the economy to impact Halloween spending for young adults.

Too many of us dress up our metrics in costumes that disguise the underlying trends. Like Halloween candy, it may taste good but isn’t good for you.

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