A HAUNTING RETURN

Halloween marks comeback of horror, consumer spending following Sept. 11.

Halloween retailers are witnessing a return of profits and popularity after commercial spookiness was scared away last year by the real-life monsters of Sept. 11.

"People were afraid to wear scary masks last year, because the real monsters out there were scary enough," said Barbara Baker, owner of BB's Celebration Center, 704 S. Tillotson Ave.

According to the National Retail Federation, households will spend an estimated $44 on candy, costumes and decorations this year. The season is estimated to generate $6.9 billion in sales, making it the second largest retail holiday of the year after Christmas.

Baker said masks are the popular items this season, but costumes remain varied depending on individual budgets and desires.

The shop owner said she has also seen an increase in the sale of wigs as students -- particularly women -- opt for wigs and the pop culture diva look in the likes of stars such as Shakira or Britney Spears.

"I think Americans are trying to return to a sense of normalcy now, and Halloween is going to play a big role in that," said James Lowry, a Ball State retail analyst.

Decorations also reflect a return to black and orange, after the patriotic theme of last year's Halloween, Lowry said. This year, outside lights, home decorations and store displays are spooky and fun.

Baker said that while there is no set trend in costumes and decorations, nothing is too outrageous or taboo this season.

"Halloween is America's national Mardi Gras," Lowry said. "We are ready for a good celebration."

Traditionally, Halloween is seen as a holiday for children, but Lowry anticipates an increase in the popularity of the holiday among adults, who now make up a third of costume sales.

"Adults find they can express themselves by dressing up in something crazy or different. We all feel a need to loosen up," Lowry said.

Lowry believes young adults will continue to use the holiday as an excuse to host and attend major celebrations.

A poll by the National Retail Foundation found that young adults are more likely to spend larger amounts of time, effort and money on Halloween entertainment. Eighteen to 24 year olds spend an average of $68 for Halloween-related items -- $23 more than overall consumers. ,,2(+âg*FHalloween Main DNEditorial,,2SORT+â-ì+â-ä2AUDT

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