From vampire makeup to pet costumes, Halloween is set to take a hit from Trump tariffs

Halloween businesses are spooked by President Donald Trump’s trade war with Beijing, with higher tariffs leaving retailers with a stark choice: raise prices or bite the bullet for lower profits.

“Major retailers are making it clear they don’t want to raise prices,” Michele Buggy, executive director of the Halloween & Costume Association, which represents 50 Halloween-making companies, told NBC News. “They just want the manufacturer to find a way to make it happen.”

Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, have been locked in a tit-for-tat tariff battle since April last year, when the US hiked tariffs on steel and aluminum imports by 25% . China then imposed its own punitive tariffs on US-made products, and Trump responded by taxing $50 billion worth of Chinese imports. The tiff has since stepped up to include tariffs on nearly all products imported from China, with the final installment due to come into effect on December 15.

Almost every fare series has hit the Halloween industry, Buggy said.

Some big box stores such as Target and Walmart have told investors they currently have no plans to raise prices for consumers and will work with suppliers to source products from countries other than China. to avoid tariffs. Party City, which is opening a fleet of Halloween City pop-up stores, told investors the business was big enough to absorb the fare costs. Party City did not respond to NBC News’ requests for additional comment.

Small manufacturing companies, however, have little choice about how to manage the cost of doing business amid the ongoing trade war.

Halloween costume maker Rasta Imposta, whose customers include Walmart and Target, told NBC News it has pushed its Chinese factories to ramp up production of the company’s most popular costumes – a hot dog and a banana – before the latest round of tariffs take effect on September 1. 1.

“Really, it’s like ticking the clock,” said Robert Berman, CEO of Rasta Imposta. “We’re small, so we’ve built great relationships with reliable, quality factories – and we’re not in a position to go and find another country to make our suits.”

Berman said he could sell more on platforms like Amazon, where he could make a higher profit margin by selling directly to buyers. Even then, he predicts that he will raise prices by a few dollars. A suit that may cost $29.99 this year could cost $33.99 next year, he said.

“A lot of [our members] are family businesses and overall they are smaller businesses,” Buggy said. “This year [the tariffs are] largely absorbed by businesses, but we don’t know how long they will be able to absorb the cost. Soon, consumers will start to see the impact.

American shoppers will spend a total of $8.8 billion this year on Halloween, down slightly from $9 billion last year, according to the National Retail Federation. About 14% of consumers surveyed by the group said their concerns about the economy will impact their Halloween plans.

Small businesses such as Pet Krewe, a New Orleans-based pet costume company, have been clamoring to keep costs low for consumers this year. Founder and CEO Allison Albert said she couldn’t afford to restock seven of the company’s top-selling pet costumes because it would have cost the company two employee salaries. She estimates that these sales would have represented $150,000 in additional revenue.

“We’re a small business,” said Albert, whose suits are sold on and in 700 brick-and-mortar stores, including Petco and Walmart. “We can’t afford this.”

All Pet Krewe costumes are made in China and shipped to the United States as a finished product. Albert is considering moving the company’s manufacturing to Vietnam or India, and has even considered using Amish labor (Albert grew up a Mennonite in rural Pennsylvania).

Cosmetics companies such as Cinema Secrets also plan to raise prices for character kits and Halloween makeup, said Jon Stein, brand manager for the company’s Halloween brand, Woochie. About half of Woochie’s Halloween products come from China. The company managed to avoid any price increases this year, but next year is unpredictable.

No matter which country “wins” the trade war, “At the end of the day, it’s us — the company and our customers — who will have to bear the brunt of the tariffs,” Stein said.