The cost of costumes, candy and consumerism


Halloween may finally be “big business” in Canada as record high profits from Halloween-based businesses are being reported.

Brittany Brooks/The Brock Press

Brittany Brooks/The Brock Press

In fact, according to the Retail Council of Canada, Canadians annually spend upwards of $1 billion on Halloween related products and services each year, with your average Canadian spending more per capita than the average American on various Halloween related goods.

But how much are Canadians spending on Halloween? Well, according to Statistics Canada, Canadian’s spent $381 million on candy and other Halloween treats in last October alone.

According to John Winters, a retail consultant, the profits for Halloween based businesses will continue to rise due to the cheap nature of most Halloween based products, such as plastic decorations and candy.

“Retail sales are not bad at the moment and anyways the expenditure is not high on any of these items and so I expect it to be more popular than last year,” Winter remarked in an interview with the Financial Post. 

Another reason for this Halloween boom, is the growing incorporation between the Internet and Halloween. According to Retail Council’s president and CEO Diane Brisebois, “In the past three years, the Halloween holiday has just gone viral in Canada we have just seen it shoot up. Adults have really, really gotten into it. Now it’s adults and their pets. In Canada, it has become so popular that people are pretty much decorating anything”.

By the numbers: 

  • According to a poll conducted by the digital coupon website RetailMeNot, nearly 70 per cent of Canadians planned on celebrating Halloween. Of those surveyed, one in eight felt that Halloween is getting too expensive.
  • As well, nearly 33 per cent of those who responded claimed that they planned on spending more than $50, with people from Ontario and Alberta claiming they will spend the highest.
  • Halloween is also rapidly growing in popularity in the “young-adult” bracket with people aged 18 to 34 spending more on Halloween than any other demographic, reaching nearly $75 according to an Angus Reid Forum.
  • Of those surveyed, 53 per cent from both Quebec and Alberta claimed that they felt pressured into buying the best candy, thus spending more money.
  • Only half of those who responded planned to give treats out to children with a little under half stating that they would just buy candy for themselves.
  • 32 per cent of people who responded planned on attending a party which involved alcohol and costumes.
  • The Retail Council of Canada’s Halloween spending estimate of $800-million to $1-billion does not include multiple service business like restaurants that host parties or themed events like the annual Zombie Walks or the Halloween Haunt.
  • Candy and costume sales account for nearly 30 to 40 per cent of all total sales in Halloween related goods.

Why is the Halloween business growing? 

Brittany Brooks/The Brock Press

Brittany Brooks/The Brock Press

Halloween as a whole has continued to be promoted by a growing number of annual trade shows and conventions that draw thousands of spectators and hobbyists such as the Canadian Haunted Attractions conference in Guelph, Ont.

As well as specialization, seasonal stores are continuing to grow in popularity despite the general risk they pose to small business. A prime example of this is Spirit, a Halloween store that sells costumes and props and is only open for about 2 months a year, closing down shortly after Halloween. In 2014, Spirit opened 1,100 of its stores across Canada and the United States.

Additionally, Halloween promotes a creative aspect that is universally loved from the retailers to the consumers who purchase these “high-end” costumes. This creates a culture of appreciation and respect between consumer and producer which you don’t often see with other products.

Not only does Halloween offer an outlet for people to be creative, it additionally promotes a welcoming environment for anyone who wants to participate.

“Canada has a multicultural society and this is one of those celebrations that everyone — new immigrants, visible minorities, people who have been here for generations — can do together. And you can celebrate it by spending $20, or by spending $200. It doesn’t discriminate from a price perspective,” Brisebois commented, adding that, “It’s non-denominational”.

“Ten years ago, the Americans were way ahead of us” she also said.

Laurie Sluchinski, an owner of the costume shop BooLaLa in Vancouver said in an interview with the Financial Post that Canadian’s obsession with Halloween comes from a shift in popular entertainment with “Halloween-themed” media such as the “Walking Dead” and Twilight” becoming a big part of popular culture.

“We are all stars through social media,” she said. “Your picture is going to be tagged, so you’ve got to look good. And the costumes have gotten a lot better since the 1980s. There is room for everyone to participate, whether it’s a baby in a Yoda onesie or grandma dressing up in a Carol Burnett costume.”

As Halloween continues to grow in popularity and Canadians continue to spend their money on it, Halloween will overtake Christmas as the most celebrated holiday. In a country as religiously and culturally diverse as Canada, it comes as no surprise that Canadians will so openly embrace a holiday that does not discriminate against anyone or anything.

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