The holidays bring out shoppers like no other time of the year, and if you get a little overwhelmed by the commercial bonanza, you’re not alone. Here are 15 statistics about holiday shopping in the U.S. that might surprise you:
1. AMERICA IS GOING TO SPEND A LOT OF MONEY THIS HOLIDAY SEASON.
Holiday shopping sales are projected to hit $1 trillion in the U.S. Between $96 billion and $98 billion of those sales will be online.
2. THE AVERAGE PERSON SPENDS MORE THAN $1100.
On average, shoppers will spend around $1121 each on holiday gifts, according to one retail forecast. Millennials living in places like Brooklyn, Austin, and Portland are expected to spend more than most people—up to $500 more. However, those forecasted numbers vary, with a different source putting it at $935. Another survey estimates that shoppers will buy around 14 presents on average this year.
3. IT’S NOT ALL DONE ONLINE.
Despite predictions of booming online sales during the 2016 holiday season, people still enjoy brick-and-mortar stores, too. One of the aforementioned surveys found that 66 percent of respondents planned to research gifts online, but they will then head to the store to check it out in person and buy it.
4. IT HAPPENS IN UNEXPECTED PLACES.
According to a 2016 survey by a major online payments service, 22 percent of the 1000 respondents shop on the toilet.
5. MANY PEOPLE DON’T THINK IT’S FUN.
In that same survey, 19 percent of Millennials said they’d rather text with their boss on a weekend than go holiday shopping. A fifth of Baby Boomers would rather go to the dentist. However, another forecast finds that 61 percent of consumers find holiday shopping fun.
6. PEOPLE LOVE GIFTING CLOTHES.
According to one survey by a major consulting group, 50 percent of consumers plan on giving loved ones clothes for the holidays. In 2014, holiday shoppers spent $40 million at U.S. clothing stores.
7. YOUR GIFT WAS PROBABLY ON SALE.
More than 75 percent of respondents in the former shopping survey said that a sale would impact at least one of their holiday gift purchases.
8. THAT GIFT YOU GOT PROBABLY WASN’T PLANNED.
It’s the thought that counts, and in many cases, the thought is “Cool, I should buy that!” About 20 percent of holiday gifts this seasons are expected to be impulse buys, although shoppers say that around half of their gifts were pre-planned purchases.
9. HOLIDAY SHOPPING CAN MAKE OR BREAK A RETAILER’S YEAR.
Holiday shopping can account for up to 30 percent of a retailer’s annual sales.
10. SOME PEOPLE START REALLY EARLY.
One survey found that 29 percent of consumers largely completed their holiday shopping before Black Friday. In another survey, shoppers said they would start shopping in October or earlier.
11. PETS WON’T GET LEFT OUT OF THE HOLIDAY FUN.
Pet owners are expected to spend an average of $62 on their furry friends this season.
12. NOT ALL GIFTS ARE FOR OTHER PEOPLE.
One consumer-spending forecast from October 2016 found that not all holiday purchases are for other people. Some 58 percent of consumers will buy gifts for themselves, spending an average of about $140 in the process.
13. THOSE DECORATION SPLURGES ADD UP.
Being festive can get expensive. The aforementioned October 2016 survey found that the average shopper would spend more than $200 on decorations, food, flowers, and greeting cards this holiday season.
14. A SURPRISING AMOUNT OF HOLIDAY SHOPPING HAPPENS AT THE GROCERY STORE.
In the same survey, almost 45 percent of respondents said they were planning to shop at a grocery store for the holidays.
15. PLENTY OF THOSE GIFTS GET RETURNED.
In 2015, the most popular time of the year to return retail purchases was during lunch on December 26, according to one retail study. The Midwest saw some of the highest rates of holiday gift returns, with return rates of more than 19 percent the week after Christmas (comparing dollars of purchases and dollars returned). January 2, 2016 was the most popular day to return items during that month.
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Looking for some Halloween decorating inspiration? Look no further than these spooky displays. From New Mexico to New York, here are eight creepy homes worth going out of your way for each All Hallows' Eve.
1. THE PUMPKIN HOUSE IN KENOVA, WEST VIRGINIA
C-K AutumnFest—an annual fall festival thrown by the West Virginia towns of Kenova and Ceredo—offers scarecrow-building contests, tractor shows, and home-canning competitions, among other activities. Its highlight, however, is probably the Pumpkin House. The historic Victorian abode once belonged to IRS commissioner Joseph S. Miller, a friend of President Grover Cleveland. But when Ric Griffith moved in, he put it on the map with elaborate jack-o'-lantern displays.
Each year, in late October, the onetime Kenova mayor festoons the home’s yard, porch, rooftops, and gables with 3000 glowing pumpkins, some of which sit on specially built displays with music and lights. The laborious project begins in earnest around a month before Halloween, when Miller and his daughter start drawing faces on the gourds. Then, around five days before AutumnFest kicks off, local volunteers help the duo scoop, carve, rinse, and arrange the jack-o'-lanterns into tiered rows around the house and yard.
You can check out the Pumpkin House in person at this year’s festival, which runs October 27-28. “Due to the shelf life of a carved pumpkin, carving will not begin until October 23,” organizer Kim Layman tells Mental Floss. “Once the pumpkins are carved and set into place, they remain lit 24/7. The best time to see the greatest number of pumpkins lit is the weekend of AutumnFest. Weather permitting, the pumpkins will remain lit through Halloween.”
2. DANIEL'S HALLOWEEN HOUSE OF WARWICK IN WARWICK, RHODE ISLAND
The annual Halloween display at 69 Darrow Drive in Warwick, Rhode Island is so over-the-top that it has its own Facebook page for local fans. Past iterations have featured Halloween props designed by homeowner Mike Daniels, spooky interactive figures, and multi-colored lights synchronized to more than 14 songs. This year’s clown-themed yard show won’t be complete until around mid-October, but there will be “new designs and props and music,” Daniels tells Mental Floss. “We’ve added some awesome new stuff!”
Proving that Halloween isn’t always about tricks and/or treats, Daniels typically leaves out a bin for charitable donations. This Halloween, the collection will be donated to the Spirit of Children hospital foundation, which funds art, music, and other therapeutic projects for children receiving medical care.
3. “OPERATION: SCARE ‘N SHARE” IN WELLS, MAINE
In 2006, Stanley Norton of Wells, Maine, began competing with his brother to see who could build the best Christmas light show. The winner gained bragging rights, and the loser was required to hang a portrait of their sibling in their home with the words “I wish I was my brother” underneath. Norton got so into the challenge that eventually, the satisfaction of beating his brother was no longer enough. About two years after the inaugural lights contest, he also began regularly decorating his home for Halloween, an endeavor he’s since dubbed “OPERATION: Scare ‘N Share.”
Norton’s annual display runs the week before Halloween, and features spooky props and thousands of lights synced to radio music. (They're erected with help from the local Wells Soccer team, which Norton used to coach.) The tunes and lights change each year, but visitors are always asked to bring canned goods to donate to a local food pantry. In 2015, Norton’s Halloween house had so many visitors that they collected close to 1000 pounds of food.
4. THE CUNNINGHAM HAUNT HOUSE IN FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO
When a prospective career in the haunted house industry didn’t work out for him, Darrell Cunningham, a software programmer in Farmington, New Mexico, decided to turn his passion into a hobby by decorating his own home for Halloween. The project soon morphed into an ongoing tradition that's now six or so years running.
Today, Cunningham, with help from his father, constructs elaborate Halloween displays at his parents’ more spacious abode. The Cunningham Haunt House, as it’s called, features handmade props that Cunningham builds himself. (They've included grim reaper, witch, and angel statues fashioned from chicken wire, plastic pipes, paper mâché, and "monster mud," a special mixture of paint and drywall compound.) There are also plenty of spider webs and fake tombstones, as well as projectors that play music videos like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller."
Since Halloween props are expensive, the father-and-son duo is always soliciting either online cash donations or crafting materials—“decorations, webs, pumpkins, wagons light posts, poles, wood, anything that could make cool props,” according to the Cunningham Haunt House’s Facebook page.
5. 84 MAIN STREET, CAMILLUS, NEW YORK
Trick-or-treaters in the greater Syracuse, New York region visit the town of Camillus to admire (and score candy from) Mickie and Bill Hendrix’s house on 84 Main Street. The homeowners are fans of classic horror films, so each October they transform their residence into a spine-tingling attraction complete with a fog machine, orchestral music, a giant barrel of "toxic waste" that pumps out green goo, and life-sized figures of skeletons, clowns, mummies, and vampires.
The display surrounds the house, and trick-or-treaters are forced to navigate their way through a sea of monsters and ghouls to receive candy at the back door. There, they're greeted by jumping motion-sensor creatures. (Some kids are too scared to come to the door, in which case Mickie Hendrix will toss candy out the window, or go downstairs and hand it to them personally.)
The couple have been decorating their home for more than 16 years. "It started out small and just got bigger and bigger," Mickie Hendrix told Syracuse.com. "It's getting out of control and we're getting older. Thank God for our grandchildren. They helped us get everything out." However, the display might be in its final years, as the couple is planning to eventually move to Florida.
6. TERROR ON TILLSON IN ROMEO, MICHIGAN
Halloween is a community affair in Romeo, a tiny 19th century village in Macomb County, Michigan, where residents transform a single two-block street into a spooky wonderland each October.
It’s said that the seasonal spectacle on Tillson Street began with longtime homeowner Vicki Lee, whose birthday falls on Halloween. To celebrate the occasion, she always decorated her home with pumpkins, corn stalks, and scarecrows. Her enthusiasm for the holiday spread, and as more families with young children moved into the area, other neighbors began building handmade Halloween scenes in their own front yards. Ultimately, around 30 homes joined in on the fun, resulting in the street-wide affair that the village knows and loves today.
Today, an estimated 80,000 visitors are said to visit Tillson Street each year to experience the spectacle—nicknamed Terror on Tillson—for themselves. On Halloween, the street is blocked off so kids can safely trick-or-treat under the watchful eye of a makeshift security team of high school athletes. (In a separate event, Tillson Street residents also team up with the Kids Kicking Cancer organization to provide a safe daytime trick-or-treating event for around 50 children with cancer.)
For the past seven years, Brandon Bullis of Leesburg, Virginia has created a musical Halloween light show, covering the front of his house with thousands of lights that are synced to blink along with popular tunes. Past examples include Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” “Handclap” by Fitz and the Tantrums, and "The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)” by Norwegian electronic group Ylvis, the last of which caused the home to go viral in 2013.
The show—which Bullis has branded “Edwards Landing Lights”—is technically silent, but viewers can listen to its tunes by turning on their car’s radio. They can also add money to a driveway donation box, the proceeds of which are donated to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
To see Edwards Landing Lights in person, drive along Woods Edge Drive Northeast in Leesburg, Virginia after dark.
8. EAST 30TH STREET AND TACOMA AVENUE IN LORAIN, OHIO
Ricky Rodriguez constructs Halloween displays that look like movie sets. In 2013, the Lorain, Ohio resident teamed up with his brother Tony to built a giant two-story pirate ship, designed to look like it was crashing through the side of his home. The pirate ship returned to East 30th Street and Tacoma Avenue in 2014 (and presumably 2015), but last year, Rodriguez replaced the vessel with a fabricated steam-powered locomotive, inspired by the final scene of Back to the Future Part III.
Although most Americans spend Halloween dressing up and trick-or-treating, other countries have their own celebratory rituals. Here are 12 Halloween (and Halloween-like) traditions from around the world.