Spooked or not, the National Retail Federation (NRF) has spelt ghoulish Halloween spending this year in its' 2011 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey.

The NRF expects Halloween spending to reach $6.86 billion this year, equal to $72.31 a person, up from $66.28 a person last year. Overall, 2011 will see Americans spend about $6.86 billion on Halloween, according to the survey.

The survey predicts  that nationwide, seven in 10  Americans, 18 years and older plan on celebrating Halloween this year which is nearly 5 percent more than last year.

The candy culture, synonymous with Halloween is seen to push American families to spend an average of $22 each Halloween on confections.  The average consumer is expected to spend $72.31 on decorations, costumes and candy, compared to $66.28 last year.

The latest survey therefore could spell kudos for the food Industry and the retail sector in their ingenuity in marketing Halloween since its official inception in the 1920s. 40 years on, retail shelves scramble for volumes to spook us even before the thanksgiving season or pre-Christmas bonanzas have set in!   

According to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American consumes almost 26 pounds of candy each year, a large percentage of it around Halloween. This year, the National Retail Federation said they expect Halloween candy sales to reach a record high of $2 billion, most of which will go to filling the sacks of an estimated 41 million trick-or-treaters aged 5 to 14.

Companies went after Halloween candy a long time ago, says Nancy Childs, Ph.D., professor of food marketing. Candy companies are active and aggressive marketers who offer convenient, pre-packaged treats to fulfil the tradition; Halloween is now a model for other holidays -- candy baskets for Easter, candy canes for Christmas, holiday-themed M&Ms, and chocolates for Valentine's Day.

With the upward trend predicted, retailers too have raised their hopes that could bring in more treats for them this year. In fact, Wal-Mart is already sprucing up on the Halloween frenzy  by increasing shelf space of Halloween merchandise by an additional 20 percent as compared to last year.

A report in the Advertising Age says , Wal-Mart is banking on a big Halloween to scare up sales it needs to break a nine-quarter streak of declining same-store sales, having increased purchases of Halloween merchandise by 20 percent over last year, according to people familiar with the matter.

A case in point is that they are stocking up on White Chocolate Candy Corn M&Ms. The limited-edition Mars product which is exclusive to Wal-Mart is already in short supply in many stores.

Wal-Mart's loss has been racked up by online retailers such as eBay, Amazon or the website CandyCornMMs.com to sell the product at three times or more the price of $3.49 bags retailed for at Wal-Mart.

Local store owners however say that it is still a wait and watch game as recessive trends too cannot be ignored.  With Halloween on a Monday, most of the shopping is expected to be last minute, according to industry watchers.

Additionally, those celebrating are expected to spend approximately $72.31 on decorations, costumes, candy and other holiday items, up $6.03 from the $66.28 reported last year.

In fact, the survey noted that Halloween spent on decorations is second only to Christmas, with people spending an average of $19.79 on décor, according to the National Retail Federation.

The survey says that Americans are likely to spend $1 billion on children's costumes, $1.21 billion on adult costumes, and $310 million on pet costumes.

The survey recorded that 43.9 percent of Americans plan to dress up in a costume this year, up 3.8 percentage points from last year. The concept of dressing pets continues to rise in popularity, and 14.7 percent say they will dress up their pet in a costume, up 3.2 percentage points from the 11.5 percent reported last year.

In addition, the survey reported that 22.9 percent of Americans will visit a haunted house, 73.5 percent will hand out candy, 47.8 percent will carve a pumpkin and 32.9 percent will take their children trick-or-treating, all up more than 1.0 percentage point from 2010.

Despite the upbeat survey on Halloween expenditure, 87 percent of survey respondents also said they would try to spend less overall. Around 19 percent said they would make a costume. More than 16 percent are recycling last year's costume. And more than 40 percent will buy less candy.

The other scare this year therefore is preventing dental decay amongst children as they go trick or treating the neighbourhood.  A word of caution from the USDA (United States Dental Association), in its guidelines recommends children not to consume more than 3 teaspoons, or 12.6 grams, of added sugar each day.

But a night of Halloween can be counter reactive on dental health.  Did you know that just 22 pieces of a Halloween favourite, Candy Corn, contain 28 grams of sugar, while four Starburst Fruit Chews contain 23 grams? With Snickers fun-sized bar containing 80 calories, and one Tootsie Roll Pop containing 60 calories, these definitely exceed the healthy limits for young children; Halloween could definitely be tricky for parents.

Whatever be the individual fear factors, the festivity of Halloween is definitely not without its 'spirits'!