MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — Hurricane Sandy has taken a monster bite out of business at holiday stores since the storm disrupted many Halloween traditions, especially trick-or-treat.
Few storm victims felt much like celebrating All Hallow’s Eve on Wednesday, even if they could, a day after the devastating storm plowed through the state.
Trick-or-treat officially has been rescheduled for Monday across New Jersey through an executive order by Gov. Chris Christie. Local stores are hoping to salvage some lost business.
Halloween traditionally offers more treat than trick for local businesses. The holiday generates $8 billion nationwide, according to the National Retail Federation.
The trade group was expecting 70 percent of Americans to participate this year and spend more per customer than last year — but that was before the hurricane caused widespread devastation along the East Coast.
Parents said the holiday was especially welcome this year because it gives children a sense of normalcy after the stress of evacuations and storm cleanup.
“Any distraction for the kids during times like this is good. They don’t understand the magnitude of this,” said Jim Cohen, of Lower Township.
He shopped for Halloween decorations at Spirit Halloween in Middle Township with his children, 3-year-old Justin and Jessenia, 6.
Business was slower than normal in the week before Halloween, District Manager Paul Reese said.
“There was a lot of preparation for the storm. Halloween is a holiday where you normally see a lot of late sales,” said Reese, who lives in Upper Township.
During the storm, some people probably pillaged the candy they were saving for Halloween, he said.
“When you’re cracking open a cold can of beans, a candy bar looks pretty good,” he said.
Business has picked up this weekend with the store’s half-off promotion.
“Halloween is especially important for the kids. They might have been staying with family or friends. At least they’ll be able to enjoy this,” Reese said.
Teenagers in Sea Isle City did not let the storm disrupt plans Saturday for their Zombie Prom at the city’s firehouse, hosted by a group called South Jersey Underground. Guests dressed up in formalwear — as zombies.
Stephen Thomas, 16, of Lower Township, and his 16-year-old friends Caitlin Long, of Frenchtown, and Ellis Jacoby, of Westchester, Pa., shopped at the Spirit store for special-effects makeup that would give them an authentic undead look.
Patti’s Party World on Route 9 in Middle Township had a large selection of masks, costumes and Halloween props and decorations, including lifesize cutouts of President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Owner Jason Arena, of Middle Township, said the storm cut severely into holiday business.
“It’s killed us. Even with trick-or-treat pushed back to Monday,” he said. “I think a lot of people are preoccupied with the cleanup.”
Halloween is normally one of the best days of the off-season for the store. American consumers spent an average of $72 last year on Halloween costumes, candy and decorations, according to the National Retail Federation.
But on Wednesday the store was quiet, even as residents began to return to their homes on nearby barrier islands.
Arena said his children were excited about Halloween while they made plans for their costumes. Even he will get into the act, dressing up as a zombie on Monday.
Sarah Salitrynski, the new music teacher at Wildwood Crest Elementary School, said she was expecting some of her students to stop by her Wildwood Crest home on Monday during trick-or-treat.
“I grew up in a rural area, so we didn’t have trick-or-treat,” she said. “I was looking forward to it.”
John Lawson, of Middle Township, took his children shopping for discounted Halloween props Saturday.
His 11-year-old son, A.J., is dressing up as a possessed zombie baby.
“It’s very disturbing,” said A.J.’s brother, 6-year-old Evin, who is going as a ninja.
Lawson said he was happy that despite the storm, children could still enjoy a holiday that ranks among their favorites.
“I’m glad they didn’t just cancel it. But for once in my life, I agreed with Chris Christie over his decision to push it back,” he said.
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