Halloween crowd will be big and scary

Costumes are ready, bags of candy wait to be handed out, and monsters of all ages are ready for action.

Halloween has finally arrived after a weekend of pre-holiday warmups, and a record number of people are expected to participate in traditional festivities, according to the National Retail Federation.

An estimated 161 million people will don costumes, attend parties, decorate their homes and go trick-or-treating, the highest number in the nine-year history of the group’s spending survey.

The economic downturn has done little to dampen the spirit of people who observe Halloween. The average person who celebrates is expected to spend $72.31 on decorations, costumes and candy, up from $66.28 last year. Americans will spend $2.5 billion on costumes for adults, children and pets.

The retail federation estimated that spending will reach almost $7 billion this holiday. “Americans are looking forward to having some fun,” said Matthew Shay, president of the retail trade association in Washington.


This year’s celebration has turned into a nearly weeklong holiday. It got underway with parties as early as Thursday night and continues through Day of the Dead celebrations Wednesday.

Monday is normally a slow day for restaurants, but Halloween is expected to boost sales of food to go. A fifth of all Americans — and a third of those ages 8 to 34 — are expected to order takeout or delivery Monday, according to the National Restaurant Assn. An estimated quarter of younger adults will go out to a restaurant or bar to celebrate.

Lisa Nguyen, 29, and her boyfriend, Sung Kwon, 28, will wear costumes all weekend behind the bar at the downtown L.A. restaurant where they work. Their bosses, hoping to attract the Halloween party crowd, encouraged the staff to dress up.

Nguyen picked out an Oktoberfest beer maid costume Tuesday at Pure Seasons Inc., a holiday specialty warehouse in South El Monte. Kwon will be dressed as her beer bottle.

This is the first time they have dressed up as a couple, and they didn’t want to break the bank, Nguyen said. Pure Seasons was cheaper than three other traditional costume stores she visited. Still, Nguyen shelled out more than $40 for the sexy Gretchen getup.

Almost half of Americans are expected to dress up as their favorite character or celebrity this year. Packaged costumes like the one Nguyen bought are the driving force behind Halloween spending. More people are chucking the glue gun used for homemade costumes in favor of ready-made versions, according to IBISWorld, a market research firm.

At the Halloween Club store in Westwood, it was clear that the holiday appeals to all ages. College students and parents walked the aisles surveying the costumes.

Russ Ford of Culver City was ahead of the crowd. The 63-year-old said he bought his cowboy costume weeks ago. But he was at the store Tuesday to pick up decorations for a party at his house Saturday. He was looking for the creepiest cobwebs and the most lifelike bones to scatter around his house to scare his guests.

The main reason Ford celebrates the holiday: “Escapism. You get to be a kid for the day,” he said.

Meanwhile, a few aisles over, Darren Ong of Brentwood was helping a friend sift through the racks of costumes. They avoided the popular characters and instead searched for creative, unconventional outfits that nobody else would wear.

On their list of costumes to avoid? “Angry birds!” they shouted in unison, referring to characters from the popular smartphone game.

Times staff writer Tiffany Hsu contributed to this report.