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Gritty, devils, and vampires: How Philadelphians are preparing for Halloween

Millennials are more likely than other generations to buy a costume for their pet, the National Retail Federation survey found.

Kevin Corbett, 48, and his daughter Erica Corbett, 7, buy a Halloween costume at the Spirit Halloween on Chestnut Street on Friday. October 26.
Kevin Corbett, 48, and his daughter Erica Corbett, 7, buy a Halloween costume at the Spirit Halloween on Chestnut Street on Friday. October 26.Read moreEllie Silverman/Staff

After collecting everything she needed for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume on Friday, Erica Corbett, 7, found what she was originally looking for: the kids vampire section.

She had planned to be Dracula's daughter, Mavis, from the Hotel Transylvania movie series, although each outfit inside the packed Spirit Halloween store on Chestnut Street seemed like an exciting possibility.

Erica, along with her father, Kevin Corbett, 48, of West Philly, finally settled on a hooded "spider sorceress" dress for $26.99 and a witch's broom for $7.99. They were among some of the 175 million Americans who are planning to participate in Halloween activities this year, according to the National Retail Federation. Total spending is expected to reach $9 billion, on par with last year's record high of $9.1 billion, with each person planning to spend an average of $86.79.

"The mood in the air bodes well for Halloween this year, both locally and nationally," William Park, Greater Philadelphia retail leader at Deloitte & Touche LLP, said. "Consumers are upbeat about both the economy and their personal finances."

The annual NRF survey, conducted by Proper Insights & Analytics, also found that more than 31 million Americans plan to dress their pets, almost 20 percent of those celebrating, up from last year's 16 percent. Millennials, defined by Proper as ages 25 to 34, are the most likely to dress  pets, with the most popular costumes being a pumpkin, hot dog, bumble bee, and devil.

"One of the biggest trends this year is the growth of spending on pet costumes," Prosper Insights executive vice president of strategy Phil Rist said in a statement. He called the number of people planning to dress their pets "the highest we have seen in the history of our surveys."

Of those celebrating, most will be handing out candy, half plan on decorating their home or yard, 48 percent will be dressed in costume, 45 percent want to carve pumpkins, and 30 percent plan to take their children trick-or-treating.

In Philadelphia, costume inspiration may come from the Flyers new mascot: Gritty. However, it might be hard to get the necessary materials to create a Gritty mascot because, as staff writer Bethany Ao wrote "the orange fur material that is the very essence of Gritty is in very short supply around Philadelphia because everyone wants to be him for Halloween."

When searching for costume ideas, people looked online and in physical stores. Social media searches included Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, with women more likely to look at Pinterest and men more likely to look on YouTube.

"Pop culture continues to be a source of inspiration," the NRF wrote.

Once people decided on a costume, almost 45 percent planned to visit a discount store and almost 35 percent planned to go to a specialty Halloween or costume store. For children, the top costumes were princess, superhero, Batman, and a Star Wars character. Adults were likely to say they were dressing as a witch, vampire, zombie, or pirate.

This year's Halloween is the first one that Charlette Crutchfield, 23, of the Kensington-Allegheny neighborhood, will be celebrating. Her parents don't celebrate Halloween, and  she did not go trick-or-treating as a child, she explained while waiting in line at Spirit Halloween to buy pieces for a catwoman outfit.

Along with a corset leotard, an eye mask, gloves, cat ears, black tail, and black leggings, she planned to watch YouTube makeup tutorials and ask friends who are makeup artists for help doing "special effects."

"It's special for me because I feel like the fun was taken out of it when I was a kid," Crutchfield said. She said she is excited to "dress up, have fun, and not be yourself for a few hours."

Paige Jaffe, who works in CBRE's Philadelphia's office as first vice president of retail services, said Rittenhouse Row does "a great job" of attracting consumers to the area and into the stores for Halloween activities. While people are shopping for costumes in the lead-up to Halloween, Jaffe said they may notice something else in the stores.

"Halloween," she said, "starts off the holiday shopping season."

Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), which owns six malls in the Philadelphia region, has added seasonal tenants for Halloween shopping. Egg Harbor, N.J.-based Spirit Halloween has pop-up stores in Cumberland Mall, Plymouth Meeting Mall, Exton Mall, and Moorestown Mall, and Halloween Express is at Valley View Mall, the company said in a news release.

In the Spirit Halloween store, Erica, still in her Gesu Catholic School uniform, was demonstrating to how to fly on the broom by placing it between her legs and moving through an aisle. Her dad, Kevin, asked whether she was ready to check out.

Embracing her chosen costume she said, "This is my magic broom. Hocus pocus, turn you into a frog."