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Halloween Is Back — and Is Bigger Than Ever

Blame the Celts of ancient Europe. They devised the devilishly delightful holiday we celebrate as Halloween — ‘All Hallows Eve’ if you’re some kind of purist — and thousands of years later, here in 2021, the weirdest, most sugary day of the year is about to make business history, too.

That prognostication comes by way of the Nation Retail Federation (NRF), which recently proclaimed that “consumer spending on Halloween-related items is expected to reach an all-time high of $10.14 billion, up from $8.05 billion in 2020,” on an average spend of about $103.

Nothing scary about that…or is there? Just don’t unfriend any Druid connections on Facebook — sorry, Meta — until we’ve finished. We may need them. Possibly not. To be determined.

For starters, this isn’t a typical Halloween. Millions of Americans have gotten two doses of their favorite vaccine, but COVID-19 and its vicious variants haven’t been totally scared off.

Again, you can thank the creepy Celtic sprites for the fact that this particular holiday features (you guessed it) masks.

The good people at recently offered their suggestions for what to wear on one’s face for pandemic-era pantomime. Our personal fave? The Gryffindor Crest face mask, because that’s how we roll at Hogwarts reunions. The Jack Skellington mask is also cool.

Will they protect you? The ancient Celts thought so. Then again, when’s the last time you met one?

As for costumes, Google can help you narrow down your Halloween get-up with Google FrightGeist, a fun interactive map showing the most popular costumes in different parts of the U.S. based on search data. Would it surprise you to know that “rabbit” is the second most popular costume in 2021? A lot of “furries” parties may be driving that.

We decline to speculate on that. At all. Ever.

See also: Uber Eats Rolls out Pumpkin Delivery in 3 Cities

Scaring off Evil Retail Spirits

Given that last Halloween kind of wasn’t, there’s much to be happy about for a holiday invented to ward off evil spirits and stop you from being dragged off into the shadow realm.

How about that Hershey’s? Net sales were up from $2.22 billion in Q3 2020 to $2.36 billion in Q3 2021, and probably would’ve been higher if not for (what else) supply chain issues.

Asked on the company’s recent earnings call about this happy October surprise, Hershey’s CEO Michele Buck told analysts, “it is a very strong Halloween season, the biggest that we’ve ever had,” and she promised “a good trick-or-treat” this year. If you knock on a door and get a handful of Hershey’s Kisses, you know who to thank.

Many of us will shop Walmart for everything Halloween, so we love their “What will Halloween 2021 look like?” report, estimating that traditional trick-or-treating (that’s door-to-door with a bag for you amateurs and fraidy-cats) will just about double from 2020. Also, Walmart said, “nearly three in five are extremely/very likely to shop with their phone.”

Mobile Halloween. Genius. Can’t wait to see Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse version.

See also: Hershey on a Roll as Quarterly Sales Hit $2.3B

Pumpkin Shortage — or PSL Overkill?

Pleasing as the NRF and Hershey’s figures may be, not everything is peanut butter cups and rabbit costumes in “Halloween Town” (home of the aforementioned Jack Skellington).

Perhaps while shopping, you thought, “is it my imagination, or are there fewer pumpkins this year?” We’re afraid it’s quite real. As agricultural news site Modern Farmer recently explained, “Chatter around pumpkin shortages has been circulating in recent weeks. The main culprit of such a crisis? Unfavorable weather conditions, shipping issues and a sprouting fungus across some of the U.S.’ biggest pumpkin-producing states.”

Fungus, huh? Maybe we’ll wear two Gryffindor masks. And two rabbit costumes. For that matter, maybe we’ll just paint a face on a whole-body inflatable. That counts as a costume.

We know who’s behind it, incidentally. As PYMNTS reported a while back, ingredients for Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spiced Latte (PSL for short) began showing up in August. At Dunkin’, too.

That’s the danger when “Big Pumpkin” has too much industrial sway in an overstressed supply chain year. We’re calling for an immediate Congressional investigation. And a free pumpkin.

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