Grimacing skeletons hang from hooks just inside the door, almost blocking the sight of the witches’ cauldrons beyond. An eerie tune screeches through the airwaves, and the smell of freshly unpacked rubber overtakes your nose.
Ah, it must be Halloween time.
Local retailers began decking the halls with boughs of bodies in early September, getting ready for the start of the holiday shopping seasons. From Target’s white pillow with a black, scrawled “poison” in the middle to Party City’s array of coffins and tombstones, retailers have transformed themselves into delightful purveyors of everything dark, at least until Nov. 1.
Almost 158 million consumers will participate in Halloween activities this year, slightly less than 2012’s projection of 170 million people, according to the National Retail Federation’s Halloween Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights &Analytics.
The average celebrant is expected to spend $75.03 on décor, costumes, candy and fun, down from $79.82 last year. Overall, average spending on Halloween has increased 54.7 percent since 2005, with total spending estimated to reach $6.9 billion in 2013.
In mid-September shopper Rita Lakeland was buying a couple of happy-looking pumpkin-carving stencils for her grandchildren at the Michaels on Lake Mead Boulevard and Tenaya Way. She said she came to the craft store to browse but saw the Halloween items and stopped.
“I’ll probably pick up a few items here and there up until Halloween. I usually buy candy to hand out closer to the night, but if I see something cute I’ll buy it,” Lakeland said.
At the Target on Craig Road and Clayton Street in North Las Vegas, Teresa Jorgensen and her son Jayden were browsing the collection of Halloween cereal: Count Chocula, Boo Berry, Franken Berry and Yummy Mummy.
“We’re huge Halloween people at my house,” she said.
Already, she’s been to stores all over town, Jorgensen said, looking for a costume for Jayden, either Thomas the Train or Lightning McQueen.
“We’ve been looking for Halloween stuff since the beginning of September,” she said.
According to the retail federation survey, 32.8 percent of consumers begin shopping before Sept. 30.
Surrounded by haunted house cookie kits, candy corn Oreos and a brain-shaped mold, Jorgensen said what she really loves about Halloween time is an extra excuse to stock up on Twix bars: She and her husband, Damian, love them.
One aisle over, Target employees were unpacking scores of Halloween goods, creating an area ghoulish enough to scare up sales. Most temporary Halloween stores had yet to open, including the Halloween City at Rainbow Boulevard and Cheyenne Avenue in the Wal-Mart center. Permanent stores, such as Black Cat Costumes &Novelties, are taking this time to capitalize before the rush.
At Black Cat, 2350 S. Rainbow Blvd., owners Brian and Michelle Pignatello have been selling wicked wear to Las Vegans for nine years. Once the weather starts cooling down in mid-to-late September sales start to increase inside the more than 6,000-square-foot shop.
“Usually by mid-October, it’s just complete chaos,” Michelle said.
The small business logs 60 percent of its annual sales in September and October, and hires between 12 and 18 people for the season. Off-season they keep just a couple employees on staff.
“Compared to last year, we’ve been doing better,” Michelle said. “I don’t know why, though. It could be the lack of temporary stores.”
She noted there doesn’t seem to be as many around town this year as in the past, but wasn’t sure why.
Heather George, vice president of HalloweenMart, agreed that there are less temporary stores than last year.
“I can only imagine it’s because they didn’t do well last year,” she said. “I think maybe local shoppers are more loyal to us who are here year-round.”
George also said the market may be oversaturated with the combination of big box chains carrying similar items.
As for her store, HalloweenMart is doing well, although George said she expects sales not to pick up much until closer to Halloween.
“It seems like the big rush is later and later every year,” she said. “I think people are still deciding what they want to do or be for Halloween.”
One-fourth of U.S. consumers say the state of the economy will impact their Halloween spending plans, and 86.1 percent will spend less overall, up slightly from 83.5 percent last year. Additionally, 32.7 percent will buy less candy and 18.1 percent will make a costume instead of buying one.
Even so, 43.6 percent of people plan to dress up and will spend a total of $2.6 billion on costumes, $2.08 billion on candy and $360 million on greeting cards. Second only to Christmas in terms of spending on decorations, Americans will spend $1.96 billion on creating a haunted atmosphere.
While superheroes and pirate costumes will always be popular, Pignatello said there’s a trend of people looking for Japanese anime and video game-related costumes. Black Cat also started carrying unicorn and dinosaur Kigurumi suits, which are oversized animal costumes and a huge trend.
“People are just freaking out about it,” Pignatello said.
And, she said, more people are shopping for individual components for their ensembles, as opposed to buying packaged costumes.
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.