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Archive for Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Adults spook up sales

Retailers howling about holiday

October 31, 2000

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At Williams-Sonoma, $18 will get you a pumpkin-shaped china bowl for serving candy on the big night. Or you can rifle through a barrel and choose an orange and black spatula for $7.

Entertainment goddess Martha Stewart has dedicated a special magazine to Halloween and is peddling a Bloody Mary salsa recipe, faux cobwebs that can "instantly add centuries of neglect to any home," and a $75 pumpkin-carving kit that comes with a glossary explaining what each tool can do.

No longer just children's stuff, Halloween increasingly is being taken over by adults, who have the cash to go along with their enthusiasm. This happy convergence has Halloween marketers drooling as holiday revelers go about replacing their truly tacky decor items with things more expensive, if not more tasteful.

Even the lingering elements of tackiness are being stylishly displayed.

"We hang little Halloween ornaments on the doors and we have a hanging scary man that is sensitive to motion and makes a scary sound when you walk by," said Daryl Boone, ticking off his Halloween tricks and treats. "We have special plates and napkins for entertaining."

Boone is fairly typical these days. Here's a guy who runs the family jewelry business, has six children, four cars and a seven-bedroom house in Potomac, Md. and yet, going into the weekend, he was contemplating nothing but the frivolity of Halloween.

One such scary touch is the $60 pumpkin witch, done up in acrylic paint and a fright wig, that was being delivered to his doorstep in time for spook night.

"I love this holiday. It's as big in our house as Christmas," said Boone, 51. "We have boxes that we store in the basement with nothing but Halloween stuff," he said contentedly.

Adult Halloween celebrants have been in evidence since the holiday originated 2,000 years ago in Celtic Ireland.

In this country, the holiday slumped a generation ago with reports of trick-or-treaters finding needles and razor blades in their candy and apples.

But Halloween is experiencing a renaissance.

American Express reports that Americans will spend an average of $84 each on Halloween items this year making them even more popular than Christmas items in some stores, according to a study by WSL Strategic Retail, a New York-based consulting company.

Adult fans of Halloween say it's the one holiday that encourages adults and children to celebrate in much the same way, where getting a little crazy is socially sanctioned.

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