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Halloween isn't just for children any more. Two million people attended the Village Halloween Parade in New York.
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updated 10/29/2007 4:26:45 PM ET 2007-10-29T20:26:45

It's almost scary, the money people spend on Halloween.

Americans will shell out just over $5 billion on the harrowing holiday this year, up 58 percent since 2002 (annualized growth: 11 percent), according to the latest sales projections by the National Retail Federation's 2007 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by market research company BIGresearch.

That's a fraction of the $17 billion Valentine's Day inspires — flowers and diamonds cost more than pumpkins and candy corn — but it's still a hell of a pile. And it doesn't even include all the alcohol consumed at those crazy costume parties.

"Halloween is moving away from one night out of the year to a full season," says Scott Krugman, a spokesman for the NRF. "The larger promotional window for Halloween is leading to increased sales opportunities for retailers."

Nearly 60 percent of the 8,877 people surveyed by the NRF plan to celebrate Halloween in some way — including dressing up, going to a party, handing out candy, carving pumpkins, trick-or-treating and decorating.

About 95 percent will buy candy, nearly $21 per person on average. Not that all those princesses, pirates and Spider-Men will see all the sweets of their labor: A poll by the National Confectioners Association showed that more than 90 percent of parents swipe candy from their kids' trick-or-treat bags.

While the percentage of those decorating for Halloween remains the same, the average amount spent per person climbed 14 percent, to $26.59, over last year. Estimated price tag for all those Halloween decorations: $1.4 billion. In terms of decoration purchases, the Halloween season is now second only to Christmas, according to data tracker Unity Marketing.

"People are spending much more on Halloween and fall decorations than they used to," says Unity President Pam Danzinger. "The manufacturers are responding by translating what they do with Christmas into the Halloween themes. So you have the animated decorations with sound and even lights." This year's big sellers: table-top figurines, cauldron-stirring witches and inflatable lawn pumpkins.

But don't forget all those real pumpkins: According to the NRF survey, more than 40 percent said they were going to carve pumpkins for Halloween this year. In 2006, U.S. farmers harvested nearly 43,000 acres of pumpkins, according to the United States Department of Agriculture; the total weight was 10.2 million cwt (about 1 billion pounds).

Even dogs are getting in on the Halloween action. "Halloween costumes for pets have been catching on over the last couple of years," says Krugman. "You will see very generous offerings in terms of pet costumes, and owners and their pets dressing in some sort of theme."

The most popular pet costumes are devils, pumpkins, witches, and of course, hot dogs. Petco's Grooming Salons even offer a Halloween treat for your pup with Halloween party collars, glow-in-the-dark nail polish and pumpkin-spice shampoo.

There will be plenty of human howling, too. Almost 30 percent of people surveyed by the NRF said they were going to throw or attend a Halloween party this year. When it comes to partying, Halloween draws the third-highest crowds, behind New Year's Eve and Superbowl Sunday.

Grownups can take the screams up a notch at Fright Fest, hosted by Six Flags theme parks. Put off by long queues? You can win a front-of-the-line pass by eating a cockroach, wax worm, cricket, habenero pepper, Rocky Mountain oyster or night crawler.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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