October 09, 2023
Reading time: 6 minutes

National Retail Federation’s 2023 Halloween Study: What We Can Learn

The National Retail Federation has been tracking Halloween spending for over ten years, offering some important insights into spending habits surrounding this annual holiday. 2023 is a big year for Halloween, and this year’s study has some particularly interesting insights. Here’s what we can learn.

A family, spending time together and preparing for Halloween.

The Backdrop

Holidays can be a crucial time for retailers, as spending habits swell. Halloween and other major holidays can be both a blessing and a challenge that e-commerce owners and brick-and-mortar retailers contend with each year. Reverse logistics, inventory management, and ensuring adequate stock to keep customers connected with the goods they’re seeking can be some of the specific challenges merchants face during these critical points. 

This year’s National Retail Federation (NRF) study indicates that we’re likely to see a significant increase in spending from last year. This follows a noticeably steep trend of growing spending following 2020. Though this study doesn’t offer causation, following the Covid pandemic, some consumers may be eager to spend time with loved ones and friends. 

Other insights include a steady increase in the number of participants who report planning to celebrate the holiday, as well as the amount of individual spending expected from consumers. Let’s explore what we can learn from these trends. 

1. Halloween Spending is Expected to Exceed that of Last Year

Importantly, spending is expected to increase once again this year during the Halloween season. Not only that but it’s expected to be a dramatic increase. While last year, spending was estimated at a record $10.6 billion — with a “b” — this year’s spending is expected to hit an all-time high of $12.2 billion. 

Additionally, the amount that individuals spend is expected to increase — from an average of $102.74 in 2021 to $108.24 this year. With individual consumers spending more, this may be the year of upsells for e-commerce brands and other online retailers. 

2. Halloween is Making a Comeback

With 73% of participants reporting expecting to celebrate the holiday this year, Halloween’s popularity as a holiday appears to be on the rise. This is up from 69% the previous year, and follows a greater trend; since 2020, each year has seen an increase in the number of participants planning to celebrate Halloween. 

The bottom line? Halloween appears to be making a comeback. Following the data all the way to 2017, we can see that according to previous years’ NRF studies, the celebration of Halloween had been trending downward (from 72% in 2017 all the way to 58% in 2020). While the COVID-19 pandemic, which swept through the world and disrupted business as it did, may be related to this trend, we certainly seem to be seeing a resurgence in Halloween celebrations now — with 2023’s numbers expected to surpass that of even 2017. 

What Does This Mean for My Business?

So, what can retailers, online shop owners, and other merchants learn from this? Simply put, 2023 may be the year to lean into the Halloween trend. Consumers appear to be chomping at the bit to show their spooky side, indulge in candy, and spend time with one another. 

It also may be the time to focus on logistics challenges, with what appears to be a renewed interest in Halloween on the visible horizon. While this can be a blessing as brands are able to drive more sales, it can also represent a unique logistics challenge. 

Inventory management, careful order tracking (A costume that arrives after Halloween does not necessarily a thrilled customer make) and streamlined customer service may be more critical than ever for many businesses. 

3. Online Experiences Will Be Critical

Online shopping — in general — seems to become more ingrained in spending habits each passing year. Consumers love convenience and online shopping provides many benefits. Perhaps unsurprising, even more people are expected to shop online this year than last year. While the difference is hardly stark (from 31% in 2022 to 32% in 2023) it does demonstrate that online shopping will be as critical as ever this year, accounting for nearly a third of shopping done for Halloween. 

In addition to this, online presence may represent an important opportunity to spread brand awareness. According to this year’s study, online research is, once again, the leading source of inspiration among participants looking for Halloween costume ideas. In other words, whether consumers are shopping online or in person, they’re still most likely to at least go online to get costume ideas:

  • In 2022, 36% of participants reported planning to go online for costume inspiration. 
  • In 2023, the trend continues, with 37% of participants planning to go online for inspiration. 

What Does This Mean for My Business?

Whether consumers are shopping online, there’s a higher chance that they’ll go online for inspiration than to a costume shop or to friends and family. For many consumers, omnichannel experiences have become something of the new norm. It’s not unlikely that consumers might check costume listings online, and seek them in a brick-and-mortar, or vice-versa. 

For e-commerce brands, this represents an opportunity to seek not only sales but brand exposure as well. With a rise in the celebration of Halloween, and with many study participants reporting relying on either online shopping or online inspiration for their festivities, e-commerce brands can take steps to leverage this opportunity. 

Highly visible product listings, inspirational content, and omnichannel fulfillment may be some of the ways e-commerce brands and other online retailers are able to seize the opportunity that Halloween presents.

Additionally, fulfillment may be both crucial and a challenge this year, as Halloween buying ramps up. E-commerce brands may look for concrete ways to improve fulfillment practices — such as third-party order tracking, up and cross-selling, and consolidation of fulfillment channels. 

4. Costume Trends

Finally, one of the insights that this year’s NRF Halloween study has given us is what costumes participants are excited to wear. For brands hoping to position themselves as an inspiration source or a source or place to get costumes, finding ways to promote related product listings may prove to be a fruitful effort. Here are some interesting findings:

  • Among Children, Spiderman seems to be winning, hands down, as the study’s top costume response. 
  • Among pets, pumpkins will likely be the leading choice for costumes, as the number one response in the study. 
  • For adults, witches seem to be the leading choice in costumes. 

Cross-referencing some of these responses can also lend us some fascinating insights:

  • Among all three (children, pets, and adults) costumes that made the top ten include both ghosts and witches.
  • Among both children and adults, Batman, Barbie, and Spiderman made the top ten. 

Fictional characters seem to be firmly ingrained in the zeitgeist this year, with pets being the only exception. (Perhaps it’s simply difficult or confusing to dress one’s dog as Spiderman.)  

What Does This Mean for My Business?

For brands hoping to position themselves as the go-to for Halloween shopping and inspiration, these may be some of the costumes that are important to promote. Additionally, e-commerce brands may focus content efforts on related topics — such as how-to guides for creating costumes, lists of this year’s hottest costume ideas, and more. 

The Bottom Line

Halloween looks like it’s going to be a big deal this year. Are you ready to handle the logistics challenges your business might face? With an expected influx of interested consumers, e-commerce brands may be getting ready to take action to prepare for this year’s festivities. Additionally, omnichannel experiences can be important — with consumers relying on a variety of sources for inspiration and purchasing options. 

For non-Amazon stores operating online, such as Zapier and Woocommerce shops, this may represent an opportunity for building not only brand recognition but brand loyalty in the long run. Logistics challenges may become a critical piece of the puzzle. For online orders, it will be crucial that fulfillment processes are efficient enough to get consumers their costumes in time. 

If you’re interested in taking your fulfillment process to the next level, don’t hesitate to reach out today. At Trackmage, we’re here to help — with so much more than just order tracking. We can help you leverage the crucial touchpoint that online ordering can be, offering upsell recommendations right alongside order tracking, and much more. To learn how we can help you, don’t hesitate to reach out today for a free trial. 

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