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Tri-City retailers seeing spook-tacular sales

The Halloween spirit is making some Tri-City retailers see green.

Business has been good, said Alejandra Guzman, manager at the Spirit Halloween store in Richland. Spirit operates seasonal Halloween retail stores across the nation.

And the Let's Party store in Kennewick has been selling Halloween supplies at three additional locations in the Tri-Cities since early September, said district manager Deanna Madrigal. "Sales are doing pretty well," she said.

Americans will spend more money on Halloween celebrations this year than last year, according to a report by the National Retail Federation. They will spend on average about $66 on costumes, candy and decorations, compared with last year's average of about $56 and the total spending for the holiday is estimated to reach $5.8 billion, NRF estimates.

"In recent years, Halloween has provided a welcome break from reality, allowing many Americans a chance to escape from the stress the economy has put on their family and incomes," said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. "This year, people are expected to embrace Halloween with even more enthusiasm and will have an entire weekend to celebrate since the holiday falls on a Sunday."

Sales generally pick up during the last week of October. Madrigal said that's when about 60 percent of the sales come.

While large chain retailers such as Walmart and Target focus on children's costumes, Madrigal said Let's Party targets the adult market.

Lorene Roullier-Bennett, Spirit's district manager for Central and Eastern Washington, is excited at the store's new temporary digs at the former Circuit City location. The 10,000-square-foot store almost is three times bigger than the space Spirit had last year on Canal Drive, she said.

It has allowed the store to set up more elaborate displays and decorations, Roullier-Bennett said, adding that the Zombie Baby Playground is getting a lot of attention.

Sometimes displays help customers develop their own ideas for Halloween decorations, she said.

"Alice in Wonderland" character costumes are a big hit this year, Guzman said. The store already has temporarily run out of Mad Hatter costumes.

Generally, little girls want to be princesses and boys want to be superheroes, she said.

Vanessa Alvarez of Basin City recently got a $50 fairy costume from Spirit for her little sister. But the Connell High junior wasn't sure what she's going to wear for Halloween. She said she might buy or borrow something spooky.

"Toy Story" character costumes are equally popular among adults and children, Roullier-Bennett said.

Popular films such as "Twilight" and TV shows including "True Blood" also have helped spawn a lot of Halloween paraphernalia this year, said Madrigal, who orders her supplies a year in advance.

Political masks also remain popular, particularly among high school kids, she said. The Obama and Palin masks are selling equally well, as are the symbolic Democrat and Republican hats shaped as donkeys and elephant ears, Madrigal said.

At her stores, many adult shoppers spend more than $100 on average on costumes and accessories including fake skin, scars and blood.

Many of her customers are adults planning to participate in local costume contests that offer great prizes, she said.

On average, a family buying a full costume and makeup for two kids can expect to spend $50 to $70, Madrigal said. "Halloween is all about family fun."

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