Halloween costumes are in 'official' shortage, non-profit declares

The Halloween & Costume Association has declared an "official costume shortage" for this year’s celebration. 

The non-profit blames the lack of costumes this year on the pandemic-related global supply issues, which has affected many industries. 

The global supply chain has been buffeted by a multitude of problems, from factories having to close due to COVID-19 surges, a lack of containers to ship items in, backups at ports and warehouses, and a shortage of truckers. 

While bigger retailers like Walmart and Target have the power to buy their own containers, use air freight and take other steps to make sure they get inventory, smaller retailers are at the mercy of their vendors, who are increasingly suspending delivery guarantees and sometimes not communicating at all.

"The fact that costume and décor sales are up 20-25% coupled with pandemic-related supply issues, have resulted in empty shelves all across the country," Gregor Lawson, Halloween & Costume Association Chairman and co-founder of MorphCostumes said in a news release. "We are expecting a complete sell-out this year as well as a record setting Halloween for the entire industry."

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The HCA advises consumers to buy a costume immediately to avoid disappointment.

According to the non-profit, the National Retail Federation is forecasting that consumers will spend a record $10.14 billion on Halloween-related items this year though the HCA is predicting an $11 billion spend.

Though the pandemic is still a worry, outdoor activities like trick-or-treating have gotten the thumbs up from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts advise people to keep sanitizer and masks handy and continue to steer clear of crowded, poorly ventilated spaces, however.

Last year Halloween arrived as cases rose to about 81,000 a day around the country in the start of what ended up being a deadly winter surge. Many parades, parties and haunted houses were canceled due to bans on large gatherings and concerns that celebrations would spread the coronavirus. Others went ahead but with pandemic wrinkles and, at times, a nod to the nation’s penchant for turning to fear as entertainment in times of turmoil.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 35% of Americans plan to hand out candy this Halloween, down from 42% in pre-pandemic 2019 — but still higher than the 25% mark seen in a separate NORC survey in 2020.

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Meanwhile, 16% said they intend to take their kids trick-or-treating, compared with 25% in 2019 and 12% last year.

Among the costume set, classics remain hot-sellers this year with Google search trends indicating witches, rabbits and dinosaurs are in the top spots. More contemporary get-ups inspired by the likes of the South Korean Netflix smash "Squid Game" and "WandaVision," the hit Marvel series, are also popular, McMillan said. There are even a few topical offerings, like a couples costume of a vaccine and syringe, she said.

Some trends have shifted since last year, with fewer people choosing first-responder and superhero costumes and more leaning toward pop culture and nostalgia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.