Jim Berg was surprised to see an influx of Halloween shoppers — in August — at his Twin Cities Magic & Costume in West St. Paul.
The hunt for spooky décor and clever costumes usually starts after Labor Day.
But signs emerged early that this is going to be a Halloween like no other. Last year's activities were curtailed by the pandemic. And this year, Oct. 31 is a Sunday, giving people all weekend to dress up in costumes and get out.
"That allows for Sunday night trick-or-treating and neighborhood gatherings and clubbing and costume contests on Friday and Saturday night," Berg said. "It will be a grand Halloween weekend, a ghoulish good time!"
Spending on Halloween is expected to reach an all-time high of $10.1 billion, the National Retail Federation said. That's well above last year's spending of $8.1 billion.
August sales were up 80% above year-ago levels at Fun.com Inc., the North Mankato maker and seller of Halloween costumes, said Tom Fallenstein, the company's chief executive.
The company, which operates the website HalloweenCostumes.com, had record sales last year, which he attributed to the broader spike in online shopping that occurred because of the pandemic.
"Because we were online, and there weren't many retail stores doing that, we had our best year ever last year," said Fallenstein last week, "and we're now 50 percent over that."
The company typically hires hundreds of seasonal workers to help fulfill orders. Fallenstein is paying $500,000 for hotel rooms to house seasonal employees and raised base pay by $5 to $19 an hour.
He said the company has had little difficulty filling orders, in contrast to some retailers. It manufactures half of its products and he anticipated demand.
Experts attribute this year's excitement to pent-up demand to have fun and resume traditions. "There's die-hard people who love Halloween," Fallenstein said. "There's that nostalgia for what it was like for us as kids."
He is also seeing his sales grow as the holiday rises in popularity around the globe as America's trick-or-treating tradition is adopted in Canada, the U.K., Europe and Australia.
Last year's Halloween was influenced by quarantine bubbles and social distancing, resulting in new traditions such as neighborhood block parties, trunk-or-treat and homeowners using lights and fog machines to turn their houses into haunted manors and their yards into spooky cemeteries.
Berg attributes the rise of Halloween's popularity among adults to marketing campaigns by big-box retailers dating back to the 1990s. Now, he'll often see a family spend $20 a costume for each kid and three or four times that for a parent.
This Halloween, many events, parties and old traditions are back on after a year off, such as ValleyScare and its Halloween Haunt and the Great Pumpkin Fest.
ValleyScare's COVID-19 protocols include taking online reservations and operating at 70% capacity, after record-breaking crowds in 2019, said Kelsey Megard, a Valleyfair Amusement Park spokeswoman.
"We definitely won't be seeing that again but that is by design for the best event possible," Megard said.