Jack-o'-lanterns now have something to grin about.
Sales for Halloween candy, costumes and decorations have grown to the point that they have surpassed all other holidays except Christmas, according to retail analysts.
Last year, three-quarters of U.S. consumers said they planned to shop for Halloween goods, according to the International Mass Retail Association.
The number and variety of Halloween decorations have grown greatly in the past 10 years, said Carol Shaner, former executive director of the Halloween Association. "There was not the kind of thing that we have today with the Halloween strings of lights and the (motion-sensor) greeters."
The association, which until a couple of years ago tracked retail sales associated with the holiday, estimated Halloween sales at $6 billion in 2000, the most recent year for which it had statistics.
Ms. Shaner said the commercial buildup was partly fueled by a growing adult market for costumes and parties to celebrate what had been mostly a children's holiday.
She also said nostalgic baby boomers began spending more on costumes for their children and decorations for their home than previous generations had.
For local vendors, the staple of the season has been pumpkins.
Leo Charette, the owner of Leo's Produce Inc., will open his display at the Augusta State Farmers Market on Fifth Street later this week. He said he expects to order between 250,000 and 400,000 pounds of pumpkins this year to supply the display, restaurant orders and shipments to schools.
Most of those get trucked in from Tennessee or Virginia because "Georgia pumpkins are more of a yellow color," he said.
Troy Wood traveled as far away as New Mexico to pick up pumpkins when Virginia's farmers had a bad season.
The co-owner of Wood Produce in Lexington, S.C., has set up a parking lot patch on Washington Road for the past three years.
He said pumpkin sales have been strong up to the last day.
"It's amazing how many people buy pumpkins on the day of Halloween," Mr. Wood said. "Last year, I had two women fighting over the last ones."
Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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