As Southwest Floridians and other Americans prepare to observe, celebrate, ignore or flee from Halloween this year, predictions on the economic impact of the haunt-happy holiday are like a witch's brew — mixed.
"It may be a good season for us," says Dennis Thomet, manager of the Party City store on Pine Ridge Road in Naples, "but we won't know until closer to the 31st. Adults don't even start looking for costumes and other Halloween stuff until a week or so before."
Thomet also said Halloween spending may suffer a bit because the holiday is on a Wednesday this year.
"When it's on a weekend, adult holiday parties are gigantic, but probably fewer in the middle of the week," he said.
Thomet also said the two-day bash called Zombiecon would be a big draw in Fort Myers this past weekend.
"People come by the thousands and we get many customers here who spend a lot of money on costumes to wear up there," he said before Zombiecon.
Another trend-spotter is Barb Baier, owner of the Naples Masquerade store at 2100 Trade Center Way.
"Many people are coming in who have been disappointed with previous online costume purchases," Baier said. "With this tough economy, customers have to be more frugal."
She said many customers are buying costume basics and adding accessories that they can change year to year. As part of that trend, Baier is getting fewer costume renters and more buyers.
"They're starting to create their own outfits rather than spending $60 or $70 on a packaged costume online that they can't see or try on ahead of time or return."
Baier also is not fond of the "pop-up" stores that open briefly for a holiday period, then close and leave town.
"Many of those stores are backed by companies out of state," she explained, "but local shoppers don't realize that the pop-ups are hurting established local businesses."
Masquerade has been in Naples for 20 years and in Fort Myers for even longer.
A nationwide survey on where people get their costume ideas shows a close race between brick-and-mortar stores and the Internet — 35.7 percent in retail stores and 33.3 percent online.
Nationally this year, retailers expect good news at the cash registers from Halloween shoppers.
The average American is spending $79.82 on decorations, costumes and candy, reports the National Retail Federation. That's up from $72.31 last year.
Merchants hope consumers hurry and finish Halloween shopping, so the stores can load up for Thanksgiving and Christmas sales.
Don Farmer is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and CNN news anchor. He can be reached at email@example.com.