If you live in a country that celebrates Halloween, especially the U.S., there will probably be a superhero at your door tonight. The top Halloween costumes each year—whether licensed or DIY—tend to reflect current social and pop culture trends. And according to this year’s crop of consumer surveys focusing on Halloween shopping in the U.S. market, superheroes continue to reign supreme. Pokémon GO, Star Wars, and emojis are expected to make a mark this holiday as well.
Batman ranks as the number-4 costume choice among children, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, with 4.8% of kids expected to choose that character. Other licensed properties in NRF’s top 11 include, in order, Star Wars, DC superheroes, Frozen characters, Marvel superheroes, and Spiderman. (Batman is a breakout from the DC family, while Spiderman is a Marvel property.) Generic superheroes ranked number 1, taking over the lead from princesses, the top choice for the past 11 years straight.
Among millennials, Batman ranked number 1, with 9.3% selecting that choice, per NRF. Marvel superheroes and DC superheroes tied for fourth in this group, while “videogame character,” “slasher movie character,” and Star Wars character were also among the top 10. Meanwhile, Batman ranked well among licenses for adults over 35, taking the number-5 position (top among licensed properties) with 3.5% of consumers expected to select the character. DC superheroes, Star Wars characters, and Marvel superheroes also were among the top 11 for adults.
Seasonal retailer Spirit Halloween says anti-heroes are strong sellers in 2016, citing Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad, the Joker from Batman, and Deadpool as trending. For women, it names Ghostbusters as a key theme. Social media inspirations, such as Snapchat filters, emojis (especially dancing twins), and Instagram-savvy celebrities, are driving DIY ideas, the chain says. Other popular costume concepts are spurred by current events, including the U.S. presidential election, the Olympics, and Pokémon GO.
Another retailer, the online toy shop TV’s Toy Box, which specializes in TV and film tie-ins, confirms the popularity of superheroes, and says Pokémon GO, animals, and princesses are also trending. And superstore chain Meijer names Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles and Marvel as most popular for boys; it says an estimated 70% of boys’ costumes purchased in its stores are licensed. Girls prefer the perennial favorite princesses, as well as Supergirl, Batgirl, and Wonder Woman this year. Parents at Meijer are selecting Paw Patrol, Nemo, and Shopkins for their toddlers, along with pandas, unicorns, and dinosaurs. And adults, which trend toward DIY costumes, are buying emoji and presidential masks.
The major retailers of second-hand goods, which represent go-to sources of costumes and props for DIY costumes, also survey customers about top Halloween trends. Savers’ annual survey mentions Pokémon GO as the top trend for both individual and group costumes overall. Individuals are also expected to be influenced by U.S. politics, especially Donald Trump, while millennial groups will opt for Suicide Squad, groups of adults 25-34 for Avengers, and groups 45-plus for Star Wars. The top celebrity looks for Halloween, Savers says, are Ellen DeGeneres, Kim Kardashian, and Justin Bieber, while top athlete trends are all tied to the Olympics: Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Usain Bolt.
More than half of consumers (57%), up 6% from last year, prefer DIY costumes over packaged, according to Goodwill and ORC International Research. (It should be noted that Goodwill, as a second-hand retailer, is in the DIY camp.) Their survey found that “ninja turtles,” superheroes, and Spiderman were the top costume ideas for boys. Adult women are going for witches, girls for princesses, and male adults and teens for zombies, soldiers, pirates, and vampires.
Licensing plays an important role in pet costumes as well. Eight of the top 10 costumes for pets, as predicted by online searches, were licensed, according to Yroo, a shopping search engine that analyzed over 4,700 searches for pet costumes this fall. Number 1 was Pokémon (mainly Pikachu, with a small percentage opting for Squirtle). The others, in order, were Minions, Star Wars, Ewoks, Chewbacca, Frozen, Ghostbusters, and Robin. Numbers 9 and 10 were generic firefighter and dinosaur. Ewoks and Chewbacca were popular enough to break out from Star Wars as separate citations, while the appearance of Robin is due to a trend for pet owners to pair their costumes with their pets’; in other words, many Batman enthusiasts are dressing their dogs as Robin. According to NRF, 16% of consumers plan to dress their pet in a costume this year.
One theme that is discouraged in 2016: creepy clowns. Due to a number of scary incidents this summer and fall, some towns are barring clown costumes until after Halloween, while retailers such as Target have removed clown products from their displays.