For Mardi Gras Costume Shop in Scottsdale, the Halloween season is usually a prosperous time. Owner Oscar Gibson said that October business typically generates “25-40% of our yearly income.” This year, however, the outlook for the business is not very positive due to COVID-19.
“I had to furlough all my employees. I had five employees. So it’s just myself,” Gibson said. “For Halloween, I may have to have help from my family and maybe another employee, but I won’t really know that until probably the last two weeks of October.”
What Mardi Gras Costume Shop is going through is by no means an isolated situation.
Nationwide, businesses that rely on Halloween will see a downturn, according to new estimates from the National Retail Federation. In Arizona, Halloween spending is expected to be down 5 to 6%, said Lee McPheters, a research professor of economics at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, who has studied the economic impact of Halloween in the state.
In 2019, the business of Halloween brought in $150 million to Arizona between August and October, but this year it will be more like $141 million, according to McPheters, drawing his Arizona numbers from his analysis of the retail federation’s study.
“Jobs supported over the three month period will be about 4,20 — still important — but down from about 4,500 in related jobs in 2019,” McPheters wrote in an e-mail interview. “Jobs include not only retail but truckers, wholesalers, candy manufacturers, and others.”
McPheters’ research found that 4,000-5,000 temporary jobs are brought into the state each year because of Halloween.
“Contact activities such as parties or trick-or-treating will be down. People will tend to stay at home,” McPheters predicted.
While national spending during Halloween is expected to be $8 billion, down from $8.8 billion in 2019, there is a bright spot this fall, according to the national retail data. Per person spending will increase from $86 per person to $92 per person.
More people are expected to spend money on activities at home that still allow them to be festive, according to the National Retail Federation study. They’ll decorate their homes for Halloween, buy costumes for their pets and carve pumpkins.
In Arizona, the costume business is expected to go down $8 million from where it was in 2019, according to McPheters’ analysis.
For Gibson, mid-September is usually when his costume business sees an uptick in business because of Halloween. This year that was not the case.
“I’m down 90% so far here in September,” Gibson said. “So it’s pretty dismal.”
This Halloween season candy sales are expected to be down, too.
Mark Redlich, owner of Candy Addict in Tempe, said he is worried there will be less trick-or-treating this year, which directly affects his business.
“I have two small kids that we’re debating on whether or not we’re going to go out at all trick-or-treating, or just have a little party or something. I’m sure that’s what other parents are considering,” Redlich said.
Some Halloween businesses have decided to close this year due to COVID-19. Others are changing the way they are operating and providing safety precautions.
Mount Mayhem, a family-operated haunted house in Phoenix, introduced a reservation system for this year, said Rod Carrillo, whose family runs the haunted house.
The reservation system means they expect to see about a 50% drop in attendance this year, Carrillo said. In a typical year, Mount Mayhem would be visited by about 100 people a night, rising to about 400 on Halloween night.
“This year with the reservation system, we have 10 minute slots that start from 7 o’clock to 9:30 at night,” Carrillo said. “Max groups of five people. Even if there are five people per group, the max we’ll be seeing a night is 70.”
He said he’s been following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and his haunted house is safe because the activities are outdoors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines on Sept. 21 regarding Halloween. It described traditional trick-or-treating as a higher risk activity. It also recommended outdoor activities as opposed to indoor activities because there is less risk of spreading COVID-19.
The Maricopa County Department of Public Health has not made any specific recommendations, but has advised those who plan on celebrating Halloween to follow regular guidelines for activities during this time of COVID-19, such as, when possible, avoiding being in a setting with more than 10 people, limiting contact with those outside of their household and always staying home when sick, said Jennifer Franklin, public information officer for the county public health department.
The Arizona Department of Health Services plans to release guidelines in October, said ADHS Communications Director Steve Elliott.