Karen Axelton

Retailers hoping to get some green in their coffins, er, coffers this Halloween are in for a disappointment, according to a new survey from the National Retail Federation. Shoppers surveyed said they would spend an average of $56.31 on Halloween this year–down from $66.54 in 2008. Americans aged 18 to 24 will still spend more than the average consumer ($68.56) but are cutting back from $86.59 last year.

In flush times, Halloween was a retailer’s delight, with Americans shelling out cash for everything from candy and party décor to yard inflatables and costumes for their pets. According to the NRF, Halloween grew to be the eighth-largest U.S. spending holiday. But this year, total spending will drop by 18 percent to $4.8 billion, compared to $5.8 billion last year

Apparently, the economy has scared people out of spending. According to the NRF, “nearly one in three (29.6%) consumers say the state of the U.S. economy will impact their Halloween spending plans.” Of those who will be affected, the majority (88.0%) say they will spend less overall. Others will buy less candy (46.5%), use last year’s decorations instead of buying new ones (35.4%), make their own costumes (16.8%) or (horrors!) re-use last year’s costumes (15.8%).

The economic downturn is even cutting into the number of Americans who will celebrate Halloween (62.1% vs. 64.5% last year). And those who are celebrating will participate in fewer activities: The number of people planning to dress up, give out candy, throw or attend a party, or visit a haunted house are all projected to decline.

Making the predictions even grimmer, Halloween is on a Saturday this year—which traditionally means more, not less, participation.

If retailers were hoping for Halloween to provide some good news, it looks like they may have to wait until next year for a treat.