Halloween Metrics 2015

For U.S. retailers, Halloween kicks off the end-of-year holiday spending spree (time to panic: it’s only 54 shopping days until Christmas). Even though Halloween didn’t become a commercial holiday until the early 1900’s, it is now the fifth most profitable holiday for US retailers behind Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Easter. Various reports show that this year Americans spent about $7B on Halloween costumes, candy, and decorations. To put it in perspective, that’s more than the entire GDP of Bermuda.

The National Retail Federation estimates 68 million Americans dressed up for Halloween this past weekend, spending a total of $2.5B on store-bought and homemade costumes. For the 11th year in a row, the most popular costume for adults was a witch (4.3M people) and the most popular costume for kids was a princess (3.2M). That’s remarkable consistency. However, I went back to a blog I wrote 5 years ago and discovered the rest of the top ten was much more volatile. Here’s my analysis:

Top Adult Costumes Top Children’s Costumes
1. Witch (no change) 1. Princess (no change)
2. Animal (new) 2. “Batman” character (+7)
3. “Batman” character (+7) 3. Action/super hero (+3)
4. Zombie (+3) 4. Animal (new)
5. “Star Wars” character (new) 5. “Frozen” character (new)
6. Pirate (-3) 6. “Star Wars” character (+4)
7. Vampire (-5) 7. Zombie (new)
8. Action/super hero (new) 8. Witch (-5)
9. Doctor/nurse (-5) 9. Pumpkin (-1)
10. Wench/Tart/Vixen (-5) 10. Minion (new)

Hollywood movies clearly have a disproportionate impact on how people decide to dress on Halloween. The rapid rise of Batman, Star Wars, Frozen, and Minion costumes mirror the success of those movies.

However, I am at a loss to explain the appearance of animal costumes – anyone have any ideas?

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4 Responses to Halloween Metrics 2015

  1. Lora Lei Hanson November 4, 2015 at 5:28 am #

    Animals costumes are easy to create, my youngest daughter (20) years back, dressed as a cute little cow. She wore this costume for several years in a row, really the only time a woman wants to call herself a cow!

  2. Krista November 4, 2015 at 8:44 am #

    My theory on animal costumes for adults is the attention to being politically correct. Ethnic costumes used to be an popular option – I think I was a Seniorita one year in my early twenties wearing a traditional dress I bought on vacation in Mexico, a flower in my hair and carried a Spanish fan. My intent was not to make a caricature of a Mexican woman, I simply wanted an opportunity to look pretty in my Mexican dress. However, if I wore it today, it might be considered culturally insensitive or offensive. Being a mouse or a cat is a safer option.


  3. Lani Teshima (@MPLaniT) November 4, 2015 at 5:37 pm #

    If I may nitpick, you mentioned that there was no change for #5 Disney characters… but in your 2010 list, it specified Disney *princesses* and I think there’s a significant difference. As someone who has an annual pass to the Disney theme parks, I can tell you that even with the ubiquity of Disney princesses, there are a TON of non-princess characters. For one thing, “Disney character” includes all Pixar characters, and there are quite a few of those who come out for Halloween.

    As for animal costumes, I’m with Krista. I think they’re easy to make, gender neutral, and apolitical. And on chilly evenings, nothing beats wearing a furry furry costume. Also, you have stores like Walmart who actively screen for politically/racially/ethically insensitive costumes (http://business.financialpost.com/news/retail-marketing/how-wal-marts-little-known-halloween-swat-team-stops-offensive-costumes).

    • Jonathan Becher November 4, 2015 at 5:52 pm #

      Lani, thanks for pointing this out. Actually I made an even bigger mistake. This year wasn’t a generic Disney character at #5; it was specific characters from the movie “Frozen”. This is definitely new since 2010. I’ve updated the post to show this.

      I appreciate the careful read.

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