When the morning air touches your skin and gives it a crisp, cool bite, it's a good sign that busy season is materializing for some Las Vegas haunts.
At ghoulish places such as Halloween Mart, 75 percent of the annual sales are scared up during September and October.
It's also the time when Halloween Mart, where Heather George is vice president, receives new products from beyond. Fresh coffins, tombstones, spider webs and skeletons are piled into the 8,000-square-foot retail outlet at 6230 S. Decatur Blvd. , and George said the new killer decor is what she enjoys most about the season.
If you happen into the shop, you also might meet some bloody new friends, as the store just revamped its haunted hallway, a mini-haunted house of sorts that awaits vulnerable customers.
Nationwide, Halloween spending is expected to be up this year, according to the National Retail Federation. The average person will spend $79.82 on decorations, costumes and candy, up from $72.31 last year, with total Halloween spending expected to reach $8 billion.
Locally, George said she's predicting Halloween Mart's overall sales and traffic "to be a little softer than last year because (Halloween is) on a Wednesday," but the average per-customer spend per visit is $40.
So far, the walking dead have been coming in to the shop primarily for props and decorations of the ghoulish sort. The costume choices come later in the season, George said.
And during Halloween time, locals have a choice of not only the permanent costume and decoration suppliers, but also the temporary shops that capitalize on the busy season.
SEASON OF THE WITCH
For the past eight years, Halloween Express has materialized temporarily in Las Vegas. This year, the store is taking up 15,000 square feet at 9851 S. Eastern Ave. from Sept. 1- Nov. 1.
Minnee Garcia, the store's manager, said Halloween Express' sales are approaching prerecession numbers.
"We've already been up. It's been really good," she said.
Garcia said customers have said that for them, Halloween is bigger than Christmas. Partygoers are looking for multiple costumes to last a few nights, and families are buying group outfits. One trend she's noticed is people buying a lot of glow-in-the-dark items.
"I think that has a lot to do with the (Electric Daisy Carnival)," Garcia said.
Each day Garcia sees about 100 people in the store, and by the second week of October she won't be able to see down the store's aisles, she said, because they'll be too packed with bodies.
As for what else might be a dead-on look this year, thrift store Savers might be able to shed some light.
In its 2012 Halloween Shopping Survey, Savers found that 54 percent of respondents plan to wear a costume this year, with popular movies such as "The Avengers" or "The Hunger Games" inspiring many of the outfits.
The survey was conducted by Kelton Research during the spring of 2012 and polled 1,000 nationally representative consumers age 18 and older.
Out of the adults planning to wear a costume, 44 percent of men and 17 percent of women go for scary looks while 48 percent of women plan to choose rags that make them look attractive.
The Savers study also found that 92 percent of children will dress up this Halloween, and one-third of pet owners will outfit their animals, spending $27 on their pet's costume.
"In recent years, Halloween has provided a welcome break from everyday worries, allowing people of all ages a chance to simply have fun celebrating with friends and family," Savers Inc. President and CEO Ken Alterman said. "The holiday represents our busiest time of the year, sparking a 38 percent increase in sales over the last five years."
Because of the piercing spike in sales, costume shops and prop providers are hiring spooky salespeople to fill the gaps.
Off-season, Halloween Mart maintains a staff of 12. Now, that number already has floated to 55, and George said it probably will keep rising until it hits 70 or 75, by the end of October.
Halloween Express started the season with 10 employees and is now up to 20. Garcia estimated the hiring will cap at 25 closer to Oct. 31.
Although this time is busy in general for Halloween Mart, the store becomes increasingly packed with wanna-be witches and gremlins as Oct. 31 looms. During the last week before Halloween, George said, 1,000 people will come through the store in one day.
"Everyone tends to wait until the last minute, even though we're open year-round," she added.
The Savers survey found that 31 percent of respondents will put off any Halloween planning until the week before.
170 MILLION AMERICANS TO CELEBRATE
In total, 170 million Americans, or 71.5 percent, plan to celebrate Halloween this year, up from last year's estimate of 68.6 percent, according to the National Retail Federation's 2012 Halloween consumer spending survey conducted by BIGinsight.
"By the time Halloween rolls around each year, it's safe to say Americans have already spent two months preparing for one of the fastest-growing and most widely loved holidays of the year," federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said.
"Retailers know that when it comes to Halloween, new costume ideas for children, adults and pets, and the latest in home and yard décor, top people's shopping lists. We expect retailers to stock their shelves well ahead of time to capture the attention of eager holiday shoppers."
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at email@example.com or 702-380-4588.