Halloween: the Multi-Billion Dollar Industry

Halloween industryWe’ve come to that time of year again when adults throw scary parties and kids dress up in costumes and go around the neighborhood collecting candy. This year, Americans will spend nearly $7 billion on Halloween, which amounts to about $75 per household.

So how did we Americans end up spending so much on this spooky holiday?

Halloween Superstores

Over the years, Halloween stores have boomed and have been a major source of our spending. But just a few decades ago, the thought of an entire store being dedicated to Halloween was simply unheard of. It wasn’t until the 1970s that a man named Chuck Martinez decided to try it. When he worked at Sears, he convinced the company to let him open up a temporary Halloween store inside its San Diego location. It was a success, so Martinez continued opening stores around the country.

This sparked the Halloween superstore revolution.

In 1983, the first (ever-so-popular) Spirit Halloween store opened and began to flourish. Today, the chain is owned by Spencer Gifts and last year, had nearly 700 stores across 48 states – all dedicated to everything Halloween. This year, when it comes to festive decorations like life-size skeletons and cob webs, Americans will spend nearly $2 billion.

Candy & Costumes

So where did the idea of dressing up and collecting candy come from, anyway?

During the late Middle Ages, Irish and British poor folk would go from door to door collecting food in exchange for prayers for the dead on All Soul’s Day. This was called “souling.” Today, the tradition still exists, however, instead of food we give out candy and most of the people going door-to-door aren’t poor – they’re in costumes.

Dressing up for Halloween originates from the Celtic tradition of copying evil spirits by dressing in a costume or mask to make peace with them. This was called “guising,” and started in the late 1800s, though first recorded incident of guising in the North America wasn’t until 1911 in Ontario, Canada.¬†Perhaps this is why the most traditional Halloween costumes are of “evil” characters like witches, devils, and skeletons – all of which add up to the near $3 billion that Americans will spend on costumes this year.


The term “trick-or-treat” originated in the U.S. in the 1930s, but no one is really sure where the “trick” part came from. Nevertheless, the phrase has been popular ever since, and today, we choose to honor the “treat” party by buying about $2 billion worth of candy to hand out.

Happy Halloween!

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