The ghosts and ghouls at the south end of White Oaks Mall in Springfield have an agenda this year – they want a permanent day of the week for Halloween.Even the CEO of Spirit Halloween’s parent company, Spencer Gifts, admits the retailer is “having a little fun” with a national campaign to win congressional support for the last Saturday of October as the official date for the holiday.Halloween now falls on Oct. 31, regardless of the day of the week. It just happens to fall on the last Saturday this year.But industry experts say the campaign – which even one of its originators says sounds “heretical” — also is an indication of the growing importance to retailers of Halloween sales (projected at $4.75 billion this year by the National Retail Federation) as a bridge between summer and Christmas.“More retailers have started carrying costumes in addition to their regular products. At some point, the drug stores and the home-improvement stores said, ‘You know what, we should get in on that,’” said federation spokeswoman Kathy Grannis.Halloween moves up“Halloween is probably second, after Christmas,” said Dora Thompson, owner of Porgy’s Home Accents and Gifts, about her busiest holiday sales periods.Thompson dedicates about a fourth of the floor space at 216 S. Sixth St. to Halloween this time of year, adding home decor and novelties are the strongest sellers.National retail data shows Halloween ranks sixth in consumer spending among major holidays — after Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day — but the holiday is steadily moving up.The same data shows adults are driving the trend, especially those 18-24 years of age.“A lot of it is adults. Just go downtown Saturday night,” said John Cluney, manager of the Spirit Halloween store at White Oaks Mall.He said sales have been steady, despite the economy, since the store opened on Labor Day weekend, and he expects a last-minute surge as Halloween nears. The store will remain open through Sunday.Friends Peggy Mounce of Springfield and Treva Fioni of Taylorville were among the adult shoppers this week.“We do this every year, and we usually try to coordinate our outfits,” said Fioni, though she said the recession might influence her choices this year.“I was a devil last year. This year, I may just reverse my cape and go as a vampire,” said Fioni.Halloween sales also have become a staple for consignment and second-hand shops, as well as stores operated by charitable organizations, such as Goodwill Industries Inc., which markets itself this time of year as a “Halloween headquarters.”“October is one of the best sales months of the year for us. It’s about 25 percent above our lowest month. Fall and spring are usually our best retail periods,” said Sharon Durbin, CEO of Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries in Springfield.Durbin said sales are “across the board” from clothing to home decor, adding that a Halloween section is set aside each year.Are they serious?Yes, kind of, says Spirit Halloween corporate spokeswoman Kelly David.“It was something just to open a dialogue. It’s not easy changing a holiday, and nothing legal has happened (in Congress), but President Roosevelt did it with Thanksgiving,” said David, referring to Franklin Roosevelt’s decision to move the holiday up a week during the Great Depression.After a public backlash, Congress passed a law setting Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November.Even so, Spirit Halloween has started an online petition drive and set up a Facebook link for fans of the last-Saturday-in-October campaign. Spencer Gifts CEO Steven Silverstein concedes in his blog that some consumers take the effort as “dumb, self-serving and heretical.” But he insists there are legitimate reasons, other than retail sales, for a permanent Halloween weekend.“Halloween gets lost when it falls during the week. Trick-or-treating in the dark, on a school night, has its problems for safety and homework,” he said.Opinion also was split among Halloween shoppers.“I could understand why they’d do that, if it’s for the kids,” Mounce said.But Auburn resident Tricia Hemberger was having none of it as she browsed costumes for her daughters, Alexandrea, 12, and Kristina, 6.“I’m pretty traditional. Halloween is on the 31st, and I think it should stay on the 31st. When we were kids, that’s when we always trick-or-treated,” Hemberger said. “It’s like Christmas. Christmas is always on the 25th.”The recession and Halloween, 2009 compared to 2008• Total spending: $4.75 billion; $5.08 billion,• Average spending per consumer: $56.31; $66.54.• 88 percent of 8,500 consumers surveyed nationwide said they planned to spend less this year because of the economy; 62 percent said they would celebrate Halloween compared to 64 percent in 2008.Source: Annual Halloween consumer survey of the National Retail Federation.