Not Just Candy: Creative Treats Help Drive Halloween Spending in Vermont

The holiday could generate $8.4-billion in spending, the National Retail Federation predicted

Consumers are projected to spend $8.4-billion on Halloween celebrations this year, according to a new survey conducted for the National Retail Federation.

While much of that spending will be on costumes, decorations, and candy, some shoppers are getting creative with their trick-or-treat giveaways.

James Kochalka, a well-known cartoonist and graphic novelist who works from Burlington, Vermont, said he plans to give out copies of his new mini-comic featuring his cute ghost character, Johnny Boo.

"It's just to get kids excited about comics and reading," Kochalka told necn.

Packs of 25 mini-books of "Johnny Boo and the Pumpkin Tiger" are hitting select comic book stores nationwide for about $5, as a sort of alternative gift for trick-or-treaters, the artist said.

"It's not like the kid is not going to get any candy when they go trick-or-treating," Kochalka chuckled. "They'll get tons of candy. And then hopefully, a comic book, too, somewhere along the line!"

According to the National Retail Federation's annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, more than 171-million Americans plan to celebrate Halloween.

Mike Lizotte's Shelburne-based plant seed and flower bulb company, American Meadows, aims to reach a niche market with its Halloween offerings: folks who don't want to hand out junk food.

"I think it was a no brainer," Lizotte said, showing his company’s packets of pumpkin seeds with Halloween graphics. "It was a nice, healthy alternative to getting a candy bar or piece of gum as a Halloween snack."

Lizotte said kids could roast the seeds with their parents, or put away the packets until spring, to start growing 2017's jack-o’-lantern. The packets sell for $.75, with bulk discounts for large orders.

The $8.4-billion projection from the National Retail Federation survey is an all-time high in the 11-year history of the analysis, the group said. Those planning to celebrate told the researchers they would spend an average of $82.93, up from $74.34 last year.

"It's going to continue expanding," said Champlain College marketing professor Francisco Valle, who attributed an increase in Halloween spending in recent years in part to the rebounding economy.

Because the popularity of Halloween appears to be at a fever pitch, Valle predicted that more companies, even ones not typically associated with the holiday, will embrace spooky graphics and marketing approaches. Those companies may see the holiday as a good way to introduce themselves to shoppers, Valle said.

"Halloween presents a great opportunity for businesses to show people they're a fun organization; they have fun brands," Valle added.

While some people's Halloween giveaways may be more creative, such as the mini-comics or pumpkin seeds, candy is still king. The NRF survey said 94.3 percent of consumers planned to buy candy, spending an estimated $2.5-billion on it.

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