Halloween shopping starts early

Some get more than a month's jump on it

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Jessika Jaramillo went shopping Sept. 24, looking for severed body parts, blood and scarred skin. Sounds a bit ghoulish, but she was just gearing up to celebrate Halloween.

As the Oct. 31 holiday creeps up, folks like Jaramillo are heading to stores with shopping lists that also include spider webs, skeletons, and cute or often frightening costumes.

"I'll be a tiger and he'll be a zookeeper that got attacked. He'll be full of blood and scars," Jaramillo, 26, said as she and her boyfriend browsed an accessories aisle at a Spirit Halloween store in Davie, Fla.

Jaramillo said they plan on spending up to $200 on costumes and an additional $100 on decorations for their favorite holiday. That's a bit more than the projected national average. The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers will spend about $75 each on Halloween décor, costumes, candy and parties, down from $79.82 last year. About a third of those surveyed said they would do their spooky shopping before the end of September.

Halloween is only surpassed by Christmas when it comes to spending on decorations, the NRF said. This year, revelers are projected to spend nearly $2 billion on haunting décor. Overall, Halloween spending is expected to reach $6.9 billion.

Some Halloween stores are "pop-up" locations that have short-term leases and usually feature merchandise tied to various holidays. Spirit Halloween is one such store. It has a "Lawn Scares" section for shoppers who want to terrify their neighbors and trick-or-treaters.

"There's everything you'll find on a lawn, but it's been zombi-fied," said John Gravano, special projects manager in South Florida for the New Jersey-based chain. The popular retailer opens stores in early September and shuts them down Nov. 1. The company has eight in Broward County and seven in Palm Beach County.

Don't be surprised if you see a bunch of Doc McStuffins trotting around this Halloween. Gravano said the Disney animated television character promises to be a top seller among children's costumes this year. For adults, the fascination with zombie and superhero costumes will continue, he said.

And for pets?

"For some reason, and I can't explain, there's a popularity with bacon," Gravano said. "It's an outfit they put on dogs. The top is flat so it looks like bacon."

Perhaps more understandable, and also expected to be a hit again this year, are the sexy costumes.

"Sexy is the new traditional," said Lenny Rapp, owner of Masquerade Costumes, a year-round costume store in Hollywood, Fla. That includes sexy versions of a French maid or school girl, or characters like Wonder Woman. "Those will always be the most popular ones."

Rapp said he's had customers shopping for Halloween outfits as early as August.

"Because if they wait," he said, "they'll get what's there instead of what they want."

For Halloween fans, that's a scary thought.