Americans are expected to spend $6.9 billion on the spooky holiday this year, up 19 percent from last year, the National Retail Federation predicts.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Wendy Moore has spent thousands of dollars on a collection of Halloween decorations that even she admits is "excessive."
This year, she has her eye on something new: A "Bloody Mary" mirror that screams and has flashing lights, selling for $130.
"The technology they're coming out with is so neat," said Moore, 35, who teaches at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Fla. "Cool stuff just keeps coming out."
Those increasingly sophisticated props are helping drive up Halloween spending.
Americans are expected to spend $6.9 billion on the spooky holiday this year, up 19 percent from last year, the National Retail Federation predicts. Almost $2 billion of that will be on décor — up 15 percent from last year.
Since the National Retail Federation began keeping track in 2003, the amount the average person spends has risen 73 percent to $72.31.
Just as Christmas has its hot toys, the Halloween industry is generating must-have items that create a buying frenzy and sell out weeks before the holiday.
This year, it's the jumping spider. The red-eyed, battery-operated arachnid is just about impossible to find unless you go to eBay, where it's selling for almost twice its original $70 price. Another popular prop is an $180 animated Regan from "The Exorcist" — who spins her head and talks as the movie's theme song plays in the background. It has also sold out in many Florida stores.
At Orange City, Fla.-based Halloween Headquarters, which has four temporary stores in central Florida this year, "LED lights and new technology have helped with sales," co-owner Joyce Darch said. "It's a growing trend. They're cool, as opposed to a prop that doesn't do anything."
Darch said her décor sales have gone up — even though mass-market retailers now carry more Halloween items for the home, she said. "Everybody is jumping on the bandwagon."
One of the most popular seasonal retailers is Spirit Halloween, which now has almost 1,000 temporary stores across North America. Spirit's growth has accelerated since 2006, with the company adding about 100 shops each year.
As the economy declined and big-box chains from Circuit City to Linens 'N Things went out of business, Spirit Halloween had many more big, high-profile spots its stores could occupy.
At one of its stores on East Colonial Drive, Freddy Ruiz held up a $12.99 zombie doll he planned to buy and hang from a tree. Ruiz, visiting with his 13-year-old daughter Jailene, had already spent $30 to add to his Halloween collection. He planned to spend another $30.
His neighbors in Orlando's Waterford Lakes neighborhood love to decorate. Ruiz thought the fake graveyard he set up in his home would do the trick, but "we looked at the other houses and said, 'We've got to do better than this.'"
More adults are turning their homes into haunted houses and their yards into cemeteries to recapture the fun they had trick or treating as kids, said Robert Thompson, who teaches popular culture at Syracuse University.
"In the last couple of decades, adults have kind of reclaimed a holiday that "… became almost exclusively the purview of children," he said. "Retailers are helping this along and feeding the appetite."
But getting into the Halloween spirit doesn't have to require a monstrous budget.
"Yes, there are the gory and cool animatronics at a much higher price point," Halloween Spirit spokeswoman Sushma Dwivedi said. "For every one of those there's a bargain, budget version if you only have $20 to spend on a house party."
Some of Spirit's lower-priced items include ghost-face goblets for $4.99 and a 30-piece "value pack" of paper cutouts for $5.99.
Jennifer Hedrick of Orlando's College Park neighborhood has kept her costs under control as she's filled her home's exterior with life-sized ghouls and spiders larger than many household pets. She makes her purchases right after Halloween so she can get half-off deals, spending about $25 each year.
Over the years, she said, she's seen "bigger, better (decorations) to choose from. Just really fun stuff."