Halloween Haul: How the economy's doing, by neighborhood, by candy bar

Halloween, Trick or treatingLook no further than your kids' Halloween pail for proof that the recession can be hyper-localized. In some parts of the country, our kids Halloween'ed like it was 1999 (apologies to Prince) and elsewhere the pickings were slim. While we WalletPoppers provide no science behind our observations here, we do offer this post-Halloween analysis for how the treats flew on the holiday that has become the preamble to the biggest shopping season of the year. And the short answer: It depends on where you live.

Just like real estate and jobs, the abundance of Snickers and Almond Joy bars seem to have followed the recession's wave. Perhaps there's no surprise that the candy corn flowed less liberally when the latest Commerce Department data shows personal incomes dropped in September and consumer spending rose less than what was predicted. Places hit with high foreclosures and high unemployment tended to be light on giving out the loot. Other places, perhaps affected less or perhaps determined to beat back the economic doldrums with some fun just once more, were doling out the full-sized M&Ms with abandon.

As we said, no science here, but:

In my neck of the suburban Los Angeles woods, there were lots of darkened houses -- and many with "for sale" signs on the lawn where the pumpkins should have been. And when someone did answer the door, there was the frequently-heard plea to "just take one piece," instead of the "just help yourselves, Happy Halloween!" we've witnessed in previous years. Halloween goodies themselves broke no Richter scale of extravagance either. Individually-wrapped jaw-breakers and lollipops were offered from bowls that in years past held full-size Hershey bars. Despite my children's honest three hours of labor ringing doorbells, their bags were light at the evening's end. But that's just my neck of the woods -- Malibu.

Parts of Brooklyn enjoyed controlled chaos as bands of pint-sized costumed marauders forced some residents to rediscover their stoops, however chilly the night. Residents handed out candy with great generosity and even made it easier for the kids by simply moving themselves and their candy dishes outside. In Manhattan, kids reported bags breaking from the weight and volume of the sweets inside. Doors were answered on the first knock, appropriate oohs and ahhs elicited over costumes. Recession? What recession? No wonder nobody can afford Manhattan home prices yet.

Happy times were also reported from Pennsylvania. One of our Philadelphia-based writers was this morning overdosing on the sweets from her child's efforts. Little boxes of Russell Stover chocolates! Milk Duds! Skittles! There were block parties all over her neighborhood, with adults partaking in the festivities as heartily as the kids.

A WalletPopper correspondent, reporting from a working class neighborhood in Southeast Portland, found her street bustling with crowds of kids and parents in costumes. Perhaps as a concession to the recession, or perhaps because cooking your own food is a really cool idea, one neighbor gave out homemade cheesecake. Kind of hard on the old candy bag, but a touch that met with WalletPop's approval as a means to stay within your budget. A few houses gave out organic candy and others play-dough.

Trick or treating moved inside at a Midwestern mall, where no doubt the merchants appreciated the Sunday foot traffic. There were a notable number of empty stores, observed our writer, who also learned from the experience that 8-year-olds, such as his niece, do not tire on Halloween.

Americans were expected to spend $1.8 billion on Halloween candy this year, said the National Retail Federation, with the average household spending $20.29 on candy and 72% of households expected to give out candy. Could it really be that the 28% that didn't were all in my neighborhood?
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