Spooky animatronics. Giant skeletons. Twelve-foot-tall inflatable ghosts. The countdown to Halloween is on, and the frightful front yard displays this year look bigger and more ghoulish than ever.
You’re not imagining it. Consumer spending on Halloween-related goods is expected to reach an all-time high of $10.4 billion this year, up from a pandemic-deflated $8 billion in 2020 and $8.8 billion in 2019, according to a new survey from the National Retail Federation.
That boost in spending is largely driven by home and yard decorations — a trend sparked last year when COVID restrictions meant most kids weren’t trick-or-treating and adults couldn’t go to Halloween parties. Spooky decor was a safe, socially distanced way to celebrate the holiday.
“It was a way for consumers to participate in Halloween, even if they weren’t gathering with others,” said Katherine Cullen, senior director for industry and consumer insights for NRF. “It was a way to bring joy to kids who may not be able to ask for candy, but could still walk around the neighborhood and see decorations.”
This year, 52 percent of Americans are planning to decorate for Halloween, with spending projected to surge to $3.17 billion, up from last year’s $2.59 billion, the survey said.
Steve and Samantha Sardella of Tewksbury said they have “definitely” spent more this year on their annual Halloween yard display. It grew during the pandemic in 2020, but this year it’s even bigger.
“Feedback was the biggest motivator,” Steve Sardella said. “Neighbors would stop by and say, ‘We love your house. Our kids love the decorations.’ We want to top each year.”
Night after night, families park across from the Sardellas’ home at 21 Carter St. and take in the elaborate display, fittingly dubbed “A Nightmare on Carter Street.” Visitors can spot witches and ghouls gathered around a smoky cauldron, a larger-than-life headless horseman, and this year’s marquee display: a festive 13-minute Halloween video projected onto the front of the house. (The show starts at 7 p.m. every night with audio on 88.7 FM).
For Maureen Lawson and Tim MacLean of Wilmington, last year’s COVID restrictions were part of what prompted them to start amping up their ghostly display.
“There wasn’t much for people to do, but at least they could drive around and look at lights — like they do during Christmastime. You can make a night of it,” Lawson said.
Gravestones dot the front yard of what they call “The Ghoulgenheim” at 203 Wildwood St. There, visitors will find creepy clowns and witches and eclectic tableaus, such as a skeleton having a spa moment.
“Kids don’t seem to be afraid of it — they’re curious and ask questions. We even got a card the other day from someone thanking us for decorating,” Lawson said. “It’s just fun. It’s like our Christmas.”
(In fact, the sending of Halloween cards seems to be another holdover from last year’s pandemic holiday. “It was a way for people to send some joy to a friend or loved one when they couldn’t gather,” Cullen said. “People still seem very interested in sending cards this year, even though they can celebrate.”)
Lawson said they build on their display every year, but this time some items have been more difficult to find — and more expensive. The mannequins they dress up were particularly hard to come by. “They went from about $79 to $129,” Lawson said. “We had to do a lot of shopping around.”
In Milton, Ian and Beth Grigorio’s front lawn is popping with more pumpkins than ever before.
“It starts with a princess castle that I turn into a haunted castle,” Ian Grigorio, a father of three, said of his home at 41 Hawthorn Road. “I board up the windows and put up spider webs, and then the majority of the front yard is light-up pumpkins.”
This year, he’s gone bigger than ever, but the search for decorations took some time.
“This was the first year I actually spent a significant amount of money on pumpkins,” Grigorio said, adding that he scored about 15 at Lowe’s in early October. “I had to go all the way to Brockton. The Home Depots and Lowe’s nearby were completely sold out.”
About 65 percent of Americans intend to celebrate or participate in Halloween-related activities this year — up from 58 percent in 2020 and just shy of the 68 percent who participated in 2019 before the pandemic, according to the NRF survey.
“This year we’re in a different place,” said Cullen, of the NRF. “Between vaccines, kids being back in school, people going back to offices — all of that is shaping how comfortable people feel, so we’re seeing a return to normal levels of people celebrating this year.”
Even Tom Brady is getting in on the Halloween decorating boom, recently boasting about the spooky setup at his home in Tampa.
During his weekly podcast, TB12 said they’ve got a Grim Reaper, ghosts, and a cat with eerie eyes that “move every time someone crosses.” The family apparently doles out top-notch candy, too.
“If you come by our house, you’ll get great candy,” Brady said. “For all the kids in Tampa who know where we live, it’s worth a trip stopping by our house.”