Younger consumers start their costume search earlier and look online, while those 55 and older stick to stores, a survey finds.

The “what to wear for Halloween” question weighs more heavily on consumers 18-44 than it does on others, with 32% of those who shop for Halloween starting their costume quest before October, compared with 19% of those 45 and older, according to a survey.

Among adults who shop for Halloween, 94% prefer to shop in a physical store, with 27% preferring to shop online and 20% doing so through an online-only retailer such as Amazon.com, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide; eBay.com; and Etsy.com (No. 24), while 18% prefer to make Halloween purchases online through such retailers as PartyCity.com (No. 232), Target.com (No. 16) and Walmart.com (No. 3), according to a survey from digital agency Blue Fountain Media. Results do not equal 100% because respondents could choose more than one answer.

“The difference between those who shop for Halloween in-store versus online appears to center on generational differences in shopping behavior,” says Gabriel Shaoolian, founder and CEO, Blue Fountain Media. “In-store Halloween purchases among those 55 and older is a striking 99%; while 39% of those younger than 45 prefer to make purchases online.”

The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of digital agency Blue Fountain Media from Sept. 18-22, among over 1,300 U.S. adults ages 18+ who shop for Halloween.

Online retailers still have time to push sales, the data shows. Men are twice as likely as women (14% vs. 7%) to start shopping a few days before Halloween, according to the survey.

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For the ultimate procrastinators, delivery service Instacart is offering customers in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco same-day delivery of costumes until supplies last from an online Halloween pop-up shop. Instacart piloted a Halloween shop in Seattle last year. Instacart will charge its usual delivery prices for the Halloween sale: $3.99 for two-hour delivery and $5.99 for one-hour delivery on orders of $35 or more. First-time Instacart users can have their costume delivered free, as can Instacart express members, the company said.

While Halloween spending per person is expected to decrease slightly this year—the National Retail Federation predicts consumer will spend an average $74.34 this year on Halloween, a 4% decline from last year’s $77.52—that doesn’t mean consumers are buying less, says Austin Paley, Blue Fountain’s director of marketing. “What are the benefits of shopping online? More products at better prices. [Consumers] may be spending less but spending smarter and using the web as a tool,” he says.

Free shipping also factors into buying Halloween goods online, with 57% of respondents calling it the most valuable asset when shopping online, Blue Fountain’s survey found. Other reasons cited for shopping online include wider selection of products/retailers (50%), lower prices (47%), time savings (46%), ease of comparing prices among online retailers (41% percent) and ease of shopping (40%).

For Costume SuperCenter, which sells online and in stores, CEO Erik Mandell says, “This year’s Halloween shopper is being more careful with their purchases than in years past. On average we have seen smaller purchases, fewer accessories and costume extras purchased this year.” In general, Costume SuperCenter’s website has outperformed their brick and mortar stores by about 7%, he says.

Who’s trying to lure online Halloween shoppers? A study by paid search measurement company AdGooroo examined spending on text ads and product listing ads for 2,892 Halloween costume keywords on U.S. Google AdWords Desktop/Tablet from August through September and found a nearly three-way tie for share of clicks, with CostumeExpress.com having 10.23% click share compared with Target at 10.18% and SpiritHalloween.com at 10.13%.

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AdGooroo also found that online marketplace startup Jet.com has made inroads in the Halloween costume market, generating a 17.4% click share for Product Listing Ads in August and September, followed by Walmart (14.2%) and Target (13%). “For the usual players in the Halloween costume retail sector, that means having to contend with a serious new player in the field,” Jim Leichenko, director of marketing, wrote in the AdGooroo report. AdGooroo notes that the 2,892 keywords studied in its report are not inclusive of all Halloween costume-related keywords sponsored on U.S. Google AdWords. 

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