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Feds put fright into Halloween spending

What is even scarier this Halloween than zombies, witches, skeletons, Despicable Me, a twerking Miley Cyrus or the characters from “Breaking Bad” and “Duck Dynasty”?

Congress.

Last year, the National Retail Federation estimated Americans would spend $8 billion celebrating Halloween.

This year, with the popular celebration coming only two weeks after the end of the 16-day government shutdown, the federation estimates spending on costumes, candy and decorations will reach $6.9 billion.

Ever since more and more adults began participating in Halloween activities, spending had increased by more than half since 2005.

This year, celebrants will spend more on adult costumes, $1.22 billion, than children’s, $1.04 billion.

Last year, a record 170 million consumers participated in Halloween activities.

But, because of economic uncertainty – of which the shutdown is surely a factor – only 158 million are expected to do so. Celebrants’ per capita spending is likely to slide accordingly, from $79.82 to $75.03.

One-fourth of the consumers surveyed by the federation say the state of the economy will affect their Halloween spending, with nearly 90 percent saying they will spend less overall.

These figures might be of only passing interest – except that Halloween has morphed into an economic bellwether for the all-important Thanksgiving-through-Christmas shopping marathon, a make-or-break period for many retailers.

Congress has an opportunity to mess that up, too, if it can’t successfully conclude a House-Senate budget conference by Dec. 13.

Another government shutdown isn’t out of the question.

Even the uncertainty could make for an economically anemic holiday season.

For the moment, Matthew Shay, federation president, insists, “Still one of the most beloved and anticipated consumer holidays, Halloween will be far from a bust this year.”

Shay might just be whistling past the graveyard. (Complete kits, including tombstones, fake cemetery fences and artificial moss, start at around $50. Scary music and lighting are extra.)

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