Scary spending

A struggling national economy is not hurting Halloween-related spending in Catawba County.

Local Halloween businesses say customers have packed their stores this week buying decorations, costumes and candy leading up to the holiday next week.

Experts estimate total Halloween spending is expected to reach $6.86 billion this season, numbers based on current projections, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

According to NRF’s 2011 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, seven in 10 Americans (68.6 percent) plan to celebrate Halloween, up from 63.8 percent last year and the most in NRF’s nine-year survey history.

Those celebrating are expected to spend slightly more, too. The average person will shell out $72.31 on decorations, costumes and candy, up from $66.28 last year, according to the survey.

Managers at area stores like Party City in Hickory say this week will be their biggest of the season.

“It’s been crazy,” said Kim Winkler, store manager at Party City. “Friday and Saturday should be the biggest days for the month of October.”

Winkler said customers of all ages have been visiting the store buying costumes, decorations and party supplies for the upcoming Halloween weekend. Though sales have grown from last year, Winkler said they are still lower than figures from 2009.

Tina Osment, manager of the Spirit Halloween store in Hickory, also said the store has experienced frequent foot traffic.

“They are buying a lot of yard decorations, animatronics and of course, costumes,” Osment said. “A lot of people go all out for their yards. We usually have a really good selection of that.”

Spirit Halloween is at 2104 U.S. 70 West in the old Circuit City building in Hickory. The store is open during the Halloween season and will close its doors on Nov. 1 after a blow-out sale that day, Osment said.

“I’ve seen some people that are pinching, and I see some people who come and spare no expense,” she said. “Some people are more into Halloween than Christmas."

Mark Hanel, of Newton, trades time for money when it comes to decorating his home during Halloween. For the past several years, Hanel has made life-like mannequins, characters and other decorations for his frightful front-yard display off N.C. 10.

Making his front-yard characters by hand with papier-mâché and cardboard, it takes Hanel about one summer to construct a mannequin. To him, it’s time well spent for the quality product and money saved.

“Halloween decorations in the stores are unimaginative and lacking,” Hanel said. “I can make my own creatively and save some money at the same time.”

Hanel is part of an online artists’ guild through The forum features artists and decorators from around the world that share creations, design tips and photos online.

On Thursday, Hanel’s front yard was filled with gravestones, skull lanterns, hanging bats and pumpkins and seven featured mannequins.

There was a headless zombie, Grimsby the door keeper and famous horror characters like Lizzie Borden and the grim reaper.

“Jack the Ripper is this year’s new edition,” Hanel said.

He said he makes the decorations for trick-or-treaters, to fulfill a hobby and continue the fun of Halloween.

“The kids love it and we get quite a few visitors on Halloween night,” Hanel said. “At one point in my childhood I became too old to trick-or-treat. Now, I make these things and I trick-or-treat with proxy."