Halloween Watch: It's Not the Great Pumpkin, It's Donald Trump

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Retailers will not be spooked by consumers this Halloween, as spending is expected to reach record highs. The National Retail Federation, which conducts an annual survey with Prosper Insights & Analytics, predicts total spending for the Oct. 31 holiday will reach $8.4 billion, the highest amount in the survey's 11-year history. Consumers are expected to spend $82.93, or 11% more than last year, the survey found.

"Retailers are preparing for the day by offering a wide variety of options in costumes, decorations and candy, while being aggressive with their promotions to capture the most out of this shopping event," said NRF President-Chief Executive Matthew Shay in a statement.

The expected uptick is welcome news for retailers. Though early predictions for the holiday season have been merry—this week, Deloitte forecast as much as a 4% rise to more than $1 trillion in holiday sales—stores have still been weighed down by a lackluster 2015.

But Trump, Harley Quinn and Dory—their costumes, anyway—are here to help. Rockaway, N.J.-based Party City, which has more than 850 locations, expects characters from movies such as Disney's "Finding Dory," "Zootopia" and Marvel's "Civil War" to be bestsellers this year. Given the coming election, consumers might not be able to ignore a certain orange-hued costume, either.

"You'll see Donald Trump a million different ways this year," said Brian Anderson, the Zimmerman Agency creative director who has worked on the Party City account for five years. "Donald Trump is a bigger part of pop culture than the political circuit," he noted, adding that a combination with Hillary Clinton might make a popular couples costume as well. Party City began airing its Halloween-themed commercial, which has included Michael Jackson's "Thriller" song for at least seven years now—last week and plans to run the spot through the end of October.

Next month, eBay plans to compile its top-ten list for Halloween shoppers. A spokeswoman said that in the past week, the retail marketplace has seen Deadpool, Wonder Woman and Batman costumes trending.

This year, consumers are shopping later—opting for three weeks of prep time for Halloween versus last year's 81 days, according to a recent survey by Savers, the Bellevue, Wash.-based thrift store chain, which also found that 56% of people plan to dress up this year. That compares with 49% last year, said Savers, which plans to host costume catwalk shows every Thursday afternoon in October at its 330 locations.

Some larger retailers are relying on Oct. 31 to help reverse sliding sales. In September, Macy's opened a 1,400-square-foot Halloween-themed pop-up shop within its Herald Square, New York City flagship from online home décor retailer Grandin Road. The spook store, a first for the 734-unit chain, will run for two months.

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