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Holidays

Online sales of Halloween costumes are up, but not as "sexy" as you might think

by Arye Zucker - October 31, 2018

Image credit: Beth Teutschmann via Unsplash

Whether it’s costumes, decorations, or candy, American consumers love to celebrate Halloween. The National Retail Federation predicts $9 billion will be spent on the holiday this year--the second highest post-Recession Halloween spend on record. Online shopping is no exception--new data from Rakuten Intelligence reveals that online spending on Halloween items is up 27.5 percent across costumes, candy, and decorations.

Online costume sales treat online retailers--and shoppers start early

The number of costumes bought online grew 31.9 percent year-over-year. Over the two-year period, across every metric we measured, we saw a very distinct pattern: sales start ramping up in June and plummet immediately after the October peak. There is a small rebound in December (when we see some Santas and elves on the scene), before sales bottom out in January, but it pales in comparison to the October spike.

Online Halloween costume sales start increasing in June

While October buoys online sales for the year.

“Sexy” doesn’t sell costumes

Contrary to what the internet might be saying, the prevalence of “sexy” costumes (think “sexy nurse”, “sexy fireman”, etc.) is much lower than we thought. At no point in the last 24 months did the sales of “sexy” costumes account for even one percent of monthly sales. The top month for “sexy” costumes in the last 12 months was January, where they made up a grand total of .4 percent of costume sales. Over the last year, “sexy” costumes represented .3 percent of all online costume sales.

Halloween candy sales are up, but the online sugarhigh happens at Easter

Halloween and candy go hand-in-hand, but Easter season and Christmas/New Years are the candy’s sweetest seasons. Surprisingly, Halloween is just the third-heaviest time for the category, it’s not quite time for dentists to celebrate, though as online candy sales leading up-to Halloween saw strong annual growth at 47.8 percent increase in units sold. Candy sales around Easter, on the other hand, hopped up 69.1 percent.

Halloween is the third-largest online-candy-buying holiday

As online candy sales continue to grow

Online shopping as yet to bewitch consumers seeking Halloween decor

While there are plenty of households that decorate for Halloween, the spooky holiday is not a big player in the online Home Decor marketplace. In the last 12 months, no month drove less revenue in online Home Decor sales than October, and only February moved fewer units. December led in unit sales and, to no one’s surprise, November, in the build-up to Christmas, topped revenue.


The same is true for arts and crafts. Sales in October 2017 were below average compared with the rest of the year. October revenue numbers fell 13 percent below the 12-month average, and unit sales were 17.8 percent below average.

Faster shipping makes shopping for Halloween less scary for consumers

Click-to-door speeds -- the time between ordering a package and receiving it -- for all four categories is trending down (that’s good), and as sales increase, shipping times generally increase. The one outlier is the Costume category. In 2017, October 24 was the largest day for costume orders, revenue, and quantity sold. It was also the day with the quickest click-to-door speeds for costumes, more than 2.5 days quicker than the slowest click-to-door speed of 5.31 days, seen on October 30.


“Strong online Halloween sales of candy is great news for candy manufacturers, who should use the holiday as an opportunity to sell large package sizes to consumers,” Ken Cassar, principal analyst and VP, strategy & insights, Rakuten Intelligence. “While e-commerce doesn’t do impulse well, it is a terrific opportunity for bulk, planned purchases.”

Costume shipping speeds accelerate around Halloween

While click-to-door speeds decrease overall

About this data

With a panel of over 5.5 million online shoppers, Rakuten Intelligence gives the most detailed, and accurate digital commerce data available, and is reported daily.


Rakuten Intelligence is the only service to measure digital commerce directly from the consumer, across all retailers, at the item level, and over time. Our retailer-independent methodology precisely measures commerce as it happens. By extracting detailed information from hundreds of millions of aggregated and anonymized e-receipts, Rakuten Intelligence can map the entire Purchase Graph, connecting each and every consumer to all their purchases.


Rakuten Intelligence gets its data from e-receipts – not a browser, app or software installed by the end-user – so its measurement reflects comprehensive shopping behavior across multiple devices, over time, which are key in an increasingly omnichannel retail world. Slice Intelligence is the exclusive e-commerce data provider for NPD’s Checkout Tracking e-commerce service.

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