Image of a Halloween mask.
(Oliver Ward/ҹֱ)

2023 Halloween is a bumper year for the costume industry

Halloween costume sales are expected to grow by more than a third from pre-pandemic levels, with adult costumes driving the expansion.

Doug Hartnett, 62, can’t remember the last time he dressed up for Halloween. He certainly didn’t last year, and he doesn’t think he has bought a costume since the pandemic hit in 2020. But this year, Hartnett, a singer in a band, has a gig at a private party and spent the Saturday afternoon before Halloween sourcing an outfit.

“I have no idea. I’m a little overwhelmed,” Hartnett said as he picked up and put down a $64 inflatable Pokeball costume.

Americans are expected to spend $4.1 billion on Halloween costumes this year, up from $3.6 billion last year, according to the , a trade association. The bulk of that growth will come from adult costume sales, which are anticipated to climb in 2023 by $300 million to around $2 billion, and up from $1.2 billion in 2020, during the height of the pandemic.

“This year, people are coming out. They’re celebrating. They’re purchasing more,” said Angela Toleque, store manager at Bradley Party and Variety, a party and costume store in Bethesda, Maryland. “Since COVID, things have been kind of a little bit quiet,” she added, “this year there’s an uptick, so a lot more interest in costumes.”

Angela Toleque works behind the counter.
Angela Toque (left) works behind the counter at Bradley Party and Variety. (Oliver Ward/ҹֱ)

Retailers must order their Halloween stock months in advance, forcing them to anticipate sales volumes and trends. Bradley Party and Variety bought its inventory from a Halloween show in January, where they stocked up on consumer favorites, like vampires and witches, but also costumes from trending movies at the time, like Top Gun.

“Since we ordered our costumes in January, they didn’t have the Barbie movie out. So what has been selling has been the wigs and makeup,” said Toleque, who has been working with the company for a decade and in the retail industry three times as long. “Anything pink,” she added.

Brett Snyder with his Oppenheimer hat.
Brett Snyder, 28, is assembling an Oppenheimer outfit, including a wide-brimmed hat. (Oliver Ward/ҹֱ)

Brett Snyder, a 28-year-old video producer, is assembling an Oppenheimer outfit, complete with a wide-brimmed hat, suspenders and — if he can find it — a fake cigarette, for an evening of trick-or-treating with his four-year-old nephew.

Like many others, he didn’t attend any Halloween events in 2020, and celebrations in 2021 were muted.

“My friend had a couple of people over to their house, like a very low-key thing. You know, 10 people like sitting outside kind of thing,” Snyder said. “I don’t think anyone was going out and really going over the top for it.”

Usha Hippenstiel, a recent college graduate, has also been spending more on Halloween since the pandemic, attributable in part to higher prices, she says, but also to her pursuit for an array of small trinkets to give the costume added flair.

“All these little like accessory things start adding up,” Hippenstiel said.

She and her partner will attend a Halloween bar crawl this year dressed as secret agents. She has a blonde wig, a ring, a pair of gloves and some laser pointers that attach to her fingers — “because I like the light.”

Hartnett, though, leaves the store empty-handed. It’s all part of his plan to keep costume costs down. Bradley Party and Variety gave him the inspiration he needed.

“Now I’m going to the second-hand store,” he shouted as he walked towards his car.

Oliver Ward

Oliver Ward is a graduate journalism student at American University, with an interest in economics reporting. In his day job, he covers U.S. trade policy and contributes to ҹֱ on the weekend.

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