The more recent signs of consumer optimism could help explain why so many are already snapping up elaborate costumes and Halloween décor. "Halloween has morphed into a month-long celebration of fall. People start going to haunted houses as early as October 1, and it all leads up to one dramatic night," says Grannis.
Even purely optional items, such as adult and pet Halloween costumes, appear to be flying off the shelves. The most popular costumes for the over-18 crowd this year are witches, vampires, and pirates, and popular children's costumes include princesses, Batman, and Spiderman. Pets get in on the act, too, with pumpkin, devil, and hot-dog outfits. Families with kids are expected to spend a total of $1.1 billion this year, according to the NRF's survey. Most people also report that they will decorate their home or yard.
And the holiday season, another big time for spending, is just around the corner. Grannis says she thinks consumers will continue to celebrate with strong, but savvy, spending. She says, "Consumers have found a way to be very comfortable with their finances. It might mean researching prices more often, and looking for coupons more, and being a savvier shopper, but overall I think consumers are feeling a little bit better."