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Halloween Keeps Ringing the Bell, But No One's Answering

PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- Yes, you've been seeing seasonal aisles full of Halloween candy, decorations and costumes in stores and supermarkets since at least Labor Day. No, it's not doing a single thing to boost Halloween's profile among retail holidays.

According to the folks at market research firm IBISWorld, Halloween spending in the United States is expected to grow to $7.63 billion this year from $7.41 billion in 2010. That's impressive when compared with the $5.77 billion U.S. consumers spent on Halloween at the beginning of the recession in 2008, but just less than half of the $13.2 billion spent on Father's Day this year.

Among the retail holiday heavy hitters, Halloween ranks dead last behind Christmas ($69.2 billion by IBISWorld estimates), Valentine's Day ($20.8 billion), Mother's Day ($17.1 billion), Father's Day and Thanksgiving ($7.8 billion). Think Turkey Day's spot is looking ripe for the plucking thanks to Black Friday's encroachment on Thanksgiving dinner? Nope. Halloween's 3% year-over-year growth lags well behind Thanksgiving's 6.4% growth in 2012.

Fluctuating commodities prices have more than a little bit to do with Thanksgiving's annual take, but weather-dependent Halloween has plenty of its own variables. This year, Halloween has the grave misfortune of sharing its run-up sales period with a lingering government shutdown. With roughly 800,000 federal workers sent home, 2.1 million civilian contractors also furloughed and government money locked up tight, few people are feeling particularly flush this season. Halloween sales with still grow, but that growth is just a costume for some telling spending cuts.

"We expect strong growth in the decorations category because they are a small and inexpensive way to get into the holiday spirit," says Nikoleta Panteva, senior analyst for IBISWorld. "However, overall spending is expected to be suppressed due to the ongoing economic and political uncertainty, causing consumers to cut back on highly discretionary spending."

Spending on decorations is expected to jump 6.7%, to $2.23 billion. Costume spending, however, will increase by a relatively flat $40 million, or 1.5% from the $2.72 billion spent last year on the holiday's biggest category. Hershey , Tootsie Roll , Mondelez and other confectioners won't see much of a boost from candy sales, either, as last year's $2.19 billion in spending crawls to $2.25 this year -- a change of less than 3%.

Even the biggest retail holiday proponents are measuring their Halloween expectations this year. The National Retail Federation retail industry group notes that while a third of U.S. Halloween consumers did their shopping by the end of September, the overall size of that buyer base and the amount it's spending have shrunk this year. Roughly 158 million consumers say they plan to celebrate Halloween this year, down from 170 million last year. In total, they plan to spend about $75 each on Halloween, down from an average of nearly $80 per shopper last year.