The Halloween season may strike fear into the hearts of some, but it gets businesses smiling even bigger than jack o'lanterns. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend $6.9 billion on Halloween this year. Local stores say sinking your teeth into that pot takes careful planning.
Craig Slomczewski says it's scary how much he likes Halloween. In fact, it's become a year-round business at his Fun Times Party Warehouse store in Salem.
"As soon as Halloween is over, we're already looking into next year's Halloween," said Slomczewski.
It's now routine for him to visit trade shows during the winter so he can learn about the latest and greatest in Halloween costumes, accessories, and decor for the next year. And by the time Spring rolls around, he's already placing his first orders. He says it's work you have to do these days if you don't want to be left for dead during your biggest season of the year.
"We could do as much as three times the business in just the last two weeks of October," said Slomczewski.
The National Retail Federation says 67 percent of Americans will do their Halloween shopping in early to mid October -- and each person will spend an average of $75.03 for their costumes, candy, and decorations. Slomczewski says that's why it's important to know ahead of time what consumers want -- and to make sure your store has it.
This year, for example, he says zombie gear and Duck Dynasty costumes have proven to be hot sellers.
"Everybody wants to be Si or Willie from Duck Dynasty," said Slomczewski. "So we've stocked up on beards and bandanas."
Costumes are the biggest sales drivers during Halloween, generating $2.6 billion annually. Candy comes in a close second, raking in $2.08 billion. Decorations generate $1.96 billion.
An event that brought thousands of people to Salem this year is coming back next year. Tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. for the Blue Ridge Music Festival.