Trailing behind will be legions of parents made up to look like '70s-era spy "Austin Powers," demonstrating how Oct. 31's transformation into a family affair is ringing up retail sales in categories from home video rental to home design.
"Halloween is at least a $5 billion business," said Carol Shaner, executive director of the Halloween Association, ranking it second only to Christmas.
While the bulk of the expenditures will go toward candy -- estimated at $1.8 billion by the National Confectioners Association -marketers from Hasbro to Burger King Corp. and Blockbuster Video are also jumping onto the pumpkin cart.
In its first-ever Halloween promotion, Blockbuster this week launches a national TV campaign pointing out how its fright flick rentals provide a haunting atmosphere in which to celebrate the increasingly popular holiday.
The TV spot from Doner, Southfield, Mich., opens on a living room where an upside-down TV is displaying a horror film. A pair of bats in the room hang toes-up; the girl bat is snuggled in the guy bat's wings.
"I love romantic movies," one bat says in a Transylvanian accent. Voice-over adds, "This Halloween, nothing sets the mood like a movie from Blockbuster."
Some Universal Studios movie monsters are also making a comeback this Oct. 31 -- this time online. HasbroCollectors.com debuts collectibles based on characters from four classic films -- "The Creature From the Black Lagoon" "The Invisible Man," "Son of Dracula" and "The Mummy's Tomb," to join "Frankenstein" and other terrifying stars of the past.
BURGER KING PROMO
Fast-feeder BK is already serving up its Halloween promotion, offering five Silly Slammers Halloween toy collectibles in kids meals. The toys make noise and light up when squeezed.
The effort is backed by 15-second TV spots from Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York.
Mass merchants, too, are increasingly bewitched by the holiday. Kmart Corp., for example, is among the sponsors of a free Halloween party in New York's Central Park, advertised with a local outdoor campaign from Baldi, Bloom & Whelan, New York.
J.C. Penney Co. has also put a new twist in recent newspaper advertising on its "Look who" tagline coined by Temerlin McClain, Dallas, for October -- changing it to "Boo who" in recent newspaper ads.
Rather than simply offering Halloween wares, shopping malls nationwide are also taking a more pro-active holiday approach with interactive promotions.
One is Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, which this year is offering shoppers a free Halloween book of scary stories, as well as similarly themed promotional items for children of all ages.
A cottage industry is also developing around Halloween, with mom-and-pop costume shops filling temporary storefronts in malls and neighborhoods in towns across the country.
They're apparently scaring up business. According to the American Express Retail Index on Halloween shopping, consumers will pony up an average of $98 each on Halloween this year, up 21% from the $81 spent last year.
HOME DECOR SALES
The fastest-growing segment of the Halloween business is home decor, the AmEx survey found.
A study of 4,000 consumers from mall operator Macerich Co. found that 85% of consumers will deck their homes in Halloween or fall decor.
The Macerich survey found 83% planned to celebrate Halloween this year, while 93% will shop for Halloween products.
The Macerich survey results also showed that Pokemon and "Austin Powers"