2023 Halloween Category Trends

By Mike Wilkening, Communications Manager, ARC
Oct. 16, 2023

What is hot this Halloween? How much are people spending – and what are they spending on? The CMA and SIMA sought to find out. Here are 10 trends to watch – and to see around your neighborhoods as Oct. 31 nears:

Halloween #1

Halloween Spending Trend (Overall): Halloween sales are set to reach a record $12.2B in 2023, according to the National Retail Foundation (NRF), up 15% in dollars from $10.6B the previous year, though aided by inflation. However, retailers and suppliers see the world in unit and dollar sales, so it will be interesting to see what we learn once the season ends. And there are some data suggesting consumers are starting to cut back in a couple of Halloween categories, as we will detail below.

Costume Trends (Adult + Children): Kids – and adults who like costumes themselves – are expected to drive dollar gains for retailers in 2023, per NRF estimates. Overall, adult-and-child costume spending is set to reach $3.4B in dollars in 2023, up 17% from the previous year. Adult costume spending is projected to increase about 18% year-over-year to $2.0B, with costume spending on kids set to hit $1.4B, an increase of about 17% in dollars from 2022. What costumes are people buying for themselves? Well, it’s a Barbie world — and we are all living in it. According to Google, no Halloween costume has been searched more this season than the iconic outfit worn most recently by Margot Robbie. Spirit Halloween has Barbie-related costumes for all ages, as well as a host of accessories, such as this green fanny pack. Checking in at No. 2 is the “princess” costume, with Spider-Man No. 3 and “witch” and “fairy” rounding out the top five.

Costume Trends (Pet): While adult and children costume spending are set to increase, it is not as pleasant a story in the pet category, with sales expected to be flat at $700M year-over-year, according to the NRF. Given inflation, “flat” dollar sales are a step back, and it raises the question of whether Halloween merry-makers – if forced to make a choice – will cut new costumes for their furry friends out of the budget. For the record, the three most popular pet costumes for 2023 are pumpkin, hot dog, and bat, in that order. (We are particular to the pumpkin spice latte costume, as modeled here.)

Candy: Is this another category where cutbacks could be coming? While people are still buying candy, there is evidence they may be buying less candy this Halloween season. The Tampa Bay Times, citing data from Catalina, reported last week that candy sales were down 8.4% year over year as prices rose 16%. If there is a positive angle for retailers and suppliers, it is that candy continues to dominate as the most popular Halloween give-away to trick-or-treaters. In September, the National Confectioners Association surveyed 1,500 U.S. people, with an emphasis on parents, to see what they planned to give out on Halloween. The answer: not vegetables, as 98% of those polled indicated they will be giving out chocolate and candy this season. The survey also found that chocolate was the top Halloween treat, with gummy candy second and candy corn third.

Decoration Trends (Amazon): Another Halloween season, another tough time for those with arachnophobia. According to Amazon-selling platform Jungle Scout, “giant spider web” was the top Halloween décor seller in August and September, with sales up 2,100%. “Floating candles” were second, with “spooky ghosts” third. “Non-spooky ghosts” did not crack the top five, but there’s time left for “Casper the Friendly Ghost” enthusiasts to speak with their wallets and make things right.

Decoration Trends (Other): As part of a Halloween study, Michigan-based homebuilders Lombardo Homes took a look at Google data and found pumpkins to be the No. 1 most popular Halloween decoration, per search data. Coming in second? Corn stalks, which have also become a ubiquitous part of the holiday and can even be ordered through Home Depot.

Color Palette Trends: Black and orange are the traditional Halloween colors, but is there room to improvise? According to Homes and Gardens, midnight blues, emerald greens, rich burgundy and deep purples are popular with interior designers this fall season.

Lighting Trends: Want to illuminate your home or business this Halloween? There are no shortage of lighting options available, with Lowe’s among the retailers with scores of strings of lights and other decorations. With the Christmas season around the corner, it is go time for light wholesalers and specialists, but Halloween is also busy, too. Birddog Lighting of Boseman, Mt., a direct-to-consumer seller and wholesaler, tells us that a Jack O’Lantern motif is a best-seller, as well as a Halloween bat decoration.

Pumpkin Trends: When it comes to pumpkins, the good old standard orange ones continue to be in the highest demand, according to Coaticook, Quebec-based wholesaler Valfei, which supplies home and garden centers. Howden pumpkins, which weigh 16-24 pounds, are common to find in stores, as are smaller Sugar pumpkins. The latter weigh 5-7 pounds and are good for baking.

Sustainability Trends: Unfortunately, there’s little doubt most of the Halloween costumes you will encounter this season are not the most environmentally friendly, with one estimate that 83% include plastic, according to PopSugar. And if your kids want a plastic-laden costume, let’s face it — they are getting it, unless you have the time, skill, and budget to sew something. So where can sustainability-minded folks feel better about their Halloween purchases? It might come in home décor. According to Better Homes and Gardens, searches for disposable plates were down 33% on Etsy over the last three months, with disposable cup searches down 19%. Given sustainability’s importance to Millennial and Generation Z consumers, we should only expect to see more better-for-the-Earth options on the shelf in Halloween seasons to come.

Overall, 2023 can be characterized by some of the standard year-over-year trends as past Halloween seasons, along with some new ones. But one thing is for certain: earlier displays set in August and replaced by Christmas in early October leave late-season sales hanging. And in this inflationary environment, retailers and brands need all the sales they can get.