SOUTH PORTLAND – Don’t be distressed if Lady Gaga look-alikes ring your doorbell this Halloween.

Sexy Halloween costumes are in style, say local retailers. Even provocative Snow White, Freddy Krueger and Little Miss Muffet outfits are moving fast off shelves at stores catering to adults. Traditional retailers are selling everything from inflatable sumo wrestler outfits to princesses and superheros.

Look around and you won’t be surprised to hear that Halloween is the second busiest shopping season after Christmas. It’s the busiest season year round for places like Goodwill.

Industry watchers say 2010 Halloween sales will top 2009.

“Halloween is a growing holiday,” said Deede Dunbar, who owns Spirit Halloween stores in South Portland, Bangor and North Conway, N.H. “In Maine, we love Halloween. Stephen King lives here. We have a spooky aspect to the state.”

Dunbar didn’t provide specific year-over-year sales numbers but said people are spending more this year. Many Spirit customers haven’t blinked at dropping $1,000 on Halloween accessories.

“We had a traffic jam here this weekend,” she said. “We were packed.”

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will likely spend an estimated $66 each on Halloween costumes, candy and decorations this year, up from $56 in 2009 and comparable to Halloween spending in 2008. Total 2010 Halloween spending is expected to be $5.8 billion, up from $4.75 billion in 2009, the federation said.

On Thursday, Patrick Mahon of Hollis bought a mechanical mummy for roughly $100 at Spirit Halloween in South Portland.

All in, he has already spent some $300 this Halloween season.

Come Oct. 31, Mahon said his yard will be a minefield of Halloween props. He has a 12-foot Frankenstein, an inflatable bat, a fog machine, strobe lights, a hanging oversized spider, a grim reaper and open coffins, all “positioned strategically” for maximum creepiness.

“I got issues,” chuckled Mahon, 46. “Halloween is the only time when it’s legal to scare kids.”

Mahon said the economy hasn’t affected his spending. He works at Corning Incorporated, a manufacturer of scientific and laboratory products in Kennebunk, where he said he has all the overtime hours he wants.

But Allison New of Portland said the economy is a concern.

“You can’t really spend a lot,” she said from the seat of her Saturn in the Spirit Halloween lot. New, 24, had just bought a Marie Antoinette wig.

She said she’ll buy the rest of her costume from a Goodwill store.

Michelle Smith, communications manager at Goodwill Industries of Northern New England, said Halloween is the nonprofit’s busiest time — even more than the winter holidays.

She said 10 percent of Goodwill’s sales occur in the month of October, and the last two weeks of the month are 25 percent busier than average.

“People can go to Goodwill and get a good costume for $10, rather than a pre-made costume for $50 or $60,” said Smith.

Goodwill brands itself as “Your Halloween Headquarters,” and is promoting Halloween sales in radio advertisements and on Facebook and Twitter.

Eric Harkreader, spokesman for Rite Aid, said Halloween has been the second busiest holiday for that 4,800-store chain for at least eight years.

Harkreader said Rite Aid expects particularly brisk sales this year because Halloween falls on Sunday. That means more weekend parties.

But Craig Gorris, general manager of The Maine Mall, said the mall’s October sales are just 6.6 percent of yearly sales. Only January is slower.

Gorris said the mall is busiest during in July and August, when southern Maine is crowded with out-of-towners. The next busiest months are November and December, he said.

 

Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or: [email protected]