Despite Bernie Madoff masks, the Halloween business isn't spooked

For candy makers, Halloween is like Christmas and New Year's Day all rolled into one. Ditto for those who sell masks and other nick-knacks of the spooky holiday. Many companies in the Halloween business are expecting more tricks than treats this year especially with new products such as the "Ponzi" mask that looks suspiciously like swindler Bernie Madoff.

Halloween is not immune from the economy. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are expected to spend $4.75 billion on the spooky holiday, down from $5.77 billion a year ago. People on average are planning on spending $56.31, down from $66.54 last year, according to the NRF. Not surprisingly, an NRF survey found most Americans are planning to celebrate more frugally because they are worried about the economy.

"The economy has caught up to Halloween this year," said Tracy Mullin, CEO National Retail Federation, said in a press release.

Not everyone in the cottage Halloween industry is as downcast. Some of the family-owned businesses that keep treats from becoming tricks are seeing a bump in business over last year and expect consumers to allow themselves some Halloween fun

Even with worries about the economy, expanding waste lines and rising commodities prices, U.S. candy makers do not expect any major scares from this year's Halloween sales, according to the National Confectioners Association. Sales of Halloween sugary snacks are expected to rise about 1.8 percent this year, says Susan Whiteside, an Association spokeswoman. Candy sales tend to rise steadily regardless of the economy.

"It's hard to imagine Halloween without candy," says Whiteside in an interview with DailyFinance, calling it the "most affordable of luxuries."

Stacy Johnson, corporate treasurer of Louisville-based Caufields Novelty., told DailyFinance having a Halloween fall on a Saturday will allow more adults to participate in the holiday. Sales at the company, founded in 1920 by his wife's grandfather, are rising. "We are at least reasonably up this year," he said, declining to be more specific.

Rubie's Costume Co. has gotten noticed in the press for its Ponzi/Madoff mask. As Halloween products go, this was a rush job, starting as an idea in June when Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for orchestrating the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, according to Howard Beige, a company vice president. Halloween revelers, though, will likely prefer the King of Pop rather than the King of Ponzi.

"They are doing with them what they did with the Nixon masks," he told DailyFinance, adding that his family made a tidy profit selling rubbery likenesses of the first president to resign while in office. While sympathetic to the concerns about profiting from the misery caused by Madoff, Beige argued that "the average Halloween party goer was not the type of person who could invested with Madoff."

More than 15,000 of the masks have been distributed.

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