By Patricia Reaney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A stalled economy hasn't spooked Americans out of enjoying Halloween. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. consumers plan to celebrate, but will spend less this year on costumes and candy.
Although more people will be taking part in Halloween, the biggest non-gift giving holiday in the United States, this year than last, they will be economizing.
The average spend is expected to be $53, down from $73 in 2010, according to the American Express Spending & Savings Tracker.
Candy and decorations for parties and costumes will account for the biggest outlay, particularly among young professionals, who are expected to spend between $63 to $80 dressing up.
"There is no doubt that consumers are watching their wallets. But we know that they are taking part in Halloween and I think it is because Halloween is an experiential holiday," said Melanie Backs, manager of public affairs at American Express.
About 41 million children, aged five to 14 years old, went trick-or-treating last year, U.S. Census Bureau data showed. But young and older children and adults also take part in the holiday which dates back thousands of years to Celtic rituals.
"Halloween has evolved from being a one-night event mostly focused on kids trick-or-treating to a full season. We're seeing candy and decorations on sale in late August," said Backs.
About 70 percent of U.S. consumers will spend an average of $28 on candy and decorations. And it wouldn't be Halloween without a pumpkin, which will set back consumers about $18, according the American Express.
"It (the pumpkin) is the second most important Halloween tradition for many people," said Backs, adding that candy and decorations is first.
NOT JUST FOR KIDS
Although still primarily a children's holiday, young adults are also getting into the spirit. Ghosts, goblins and witches are usually top selling costumes for children and adults, but searches on Yahoo.com revealed some unusual choices this year.
Yahoo said actor Charlie Sheen, whose highly publicized departure from the hit TV series "Two and a Half Men" kept him in the headlines, was among the years' most controversial costume searches.
"I heard Charlie Sheen will be a favorite one this year," said Backs. "There is also my personal favorite. I've been seeing Angry Bird costumes for both children and adults online," said Backs, referring to the popular video game.
The National Retail Federation predicts the top costume for young girls for the seventh consecutive year will be princesses, and thanks to the popularity of Johnny Depp's portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow, pirates for boys. Animal and bug costumes are also expected to be a hit.
Las Vegas, New York and San Francisco are the favorite cities for people traveling on Halloween, according to American Express. But most people prefer to stay close to home and many will be visiting ghostly houses and spooky theme parks.
The haunted attraction industry, which is worth approximately $6 billion and includes 2,500 attractions worldwide, is betting on a good year.
"We're hearing from haunted house attractions around the country that they are doing well," said Patrick Konopelski, the president of the Haunted Attraction Association (HAA), which has haunts in every U.S. state.
"What affects us more than the economy is the weather. When the weather is just right we do very, very well."
The midwest and northeast are the areas of the country where haunted attractions dominate. One of the most popular is Eastern State Penitentiary, which bills itself as a massive haunted house in a real prison that was abandoned 40 years ago.
"People want to come out and have a good time -- to be scared or watch their friends be scared. Usually right after the fear or the fear there is a lot of laughter," said Konopelski.
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