Don't freak out, but Americans have spent $490 million on pet costumes this year

October 30, 2019

paul mansfield photography

There are few greater, more powerful capitalist engines than Halloween. The holiday season still reigns supreme, followed closely by the NFL, Avengers, booze, Apple and new driver manufacturers, but as interest in "Spooky SZN" has skyrocketed online, so has Halloween's real-world economic prospects. There are Rocky Mountain ranges of candy, providing trickle-down boosts to the dentistry and diet industries. There are horror movies, which remain the most profitable theatrical releases year-in, year-out. There are yard decorations, Etsy accounts, Pinterest boards, and an Internet backwater of adult, um, toys, and, uh, costumes to, er, consume. But don't take our word for it. Just ask the National Retail Federation, who recently released a study saying that Americans have spent a whopping $490 million on pet costumes this year alone. That's nearly half a billion (with a B) federally minted greenbacks on cheap Robin Hood costumes for your pug that you have about a 50-50 shot of actually getting on them ... and it's only October.

"When we first asked the question in 2010, 12 percent planned to dress up their pets; today, it’s nearly 17 percent," the report explains. "Likewise, spending on pet costumes continues to increase: This year total planned spending for pet costumes comes in at $490 million, more than double what we saw in 2010."

Yes, savvy economists, the pet costume industry has doubled in the last decade. If you're looking for some can't-miss investment opportunities, forget Google and go Chewy

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Like all problems currently facing planet earth, the multi-hundred-million-dollar pet costume boom is entirely the fault of the millennial scourge and rests entirely upon them to fix it (or perish in a fiery extinction event trying.) There's the obvious social media factor. If you can manage to sedate Cheeseball and Fluffernutter long enough to squeeze them into their Ellen Degeneres and George W. Bush couples costume, then you might get a few hundred likes. And if you can turn a few hundred likes into a few thousand, maybe you'll be able to quit your job and start hawking robot litter boxes on Instagram for a living. It's simple math.

Then, of course, there's the little matter of millennials not having kids. The number of babies born in America fell to its lowest level in 32 years in 2018. Though the desire to repopulate this barren hate-rock has evaporated almost as fast its clean water supply, the base human need to jam little cuddly creatures into itchy, embarrassing costumes has not, thus facilitating the rise of this bulldog market.

Will the bubble ever burst? Is there a global pet costume crash looming just over the fiscal horizon? That remains to be seen, but for now the arrows only point up.