Business spirits lift as Halloween approaches

Monday, October 24, 2005
Spencer Newton, 4, of Cairo, Ill. made sure he could fit in a Tigger outfit as his mother, Dana Newton, assisted him Saturday at the Kostomb Shoppe in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Retailers of Halloween items know that the holiday's fun factor sells.

On Friday, Josh Robinson perused through a seemingly endless assortment of Halloween costumes at the Kostomb Shoppe, from one of the Thunderbirds from the movie "Grease," to the cartoony Speed Racer, the quirky animated television character from the 1970s.

"Halloween is a lot of fun," Robinson said after he settled on Speed Racer. "I'm going to a party with my wife and I thought going as Speed Racer would be a lot of fun. I like to go to parties and dress up. It's fun."

Sense the theme here? Fun. And retailers who sell Halloween items -- from costumes to candy -- know that fun sells.

Nationally, the National Retail Federation's 2005 Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey reports Americans are expected to spend $3.29 billion on Halloween this year, up from $3.12 billion in 2004. The average consumer will spend $48.48 on Halloween merchandise, the survey said. Of that, about $31.88 will be spent on a costume.

Sales have been brisk at local costume and goodies shops. Dennis Marchi, the manager at Schnucks, said things are going well at his store, too. At Schnucks, sales have been good for costumes, candy, baked goods and decorations.

"I think people are decorating more," Marchi said. "They're buying items like scarecrows, more plastic pumpkins and things with a lot of fall colors."

Still, of all the holidays, Halloween ranks near the bottom for the grocery business, Marchi said.

"It's still a good holiday, but it's confined," Marchi said. "It just takes in a couple departments and other holidays incorporate the whole store. Halloween is basically candy and a few general merchandise items."

Halloween doesn't come anywhere close to Christmas, Thanksgiving or even the Fourth of July, he said. But one boost has come, he said, from a new school rule that doesn't allow parents to make their own goodies. Now, they have to be pre-packaged, Marchi said.

Younghouse Distributing sells a wide variety of costumes. They also sell several accessories, including a professional grade of makeup, a wide line of wigs, prosthetics like noses, lots of different colors styles of feathers.

"Halloween is a pretty big part of our business," said owner Rob Younghouse. "Being in the party business, October is usually our best month."

They've sold a lot of costumes so far, including Darth Vader, pirates, flapper girls, gangsters. He said it's not so much characters anymore, instead going for themes like hippies and 1970s look.

"Some years you have a particular costume," he said. "It doesn't seem like that this year."

Back at the Kostomb Shoppe, owner Holly Hunter said this Halloween has seen sales double from last year, her first year setting up the seasonal shop at Westfield West Park.

"Oh my gosh, it's been great," Hunter said. "I think we're doing better because we're at the same location. People like consistency. They don't have to go looking for us this year."

Again, it also comes back to that "fun" factor.

"I love Halloween and I know a lot of people do," she said. "It's costumes, dressing up. I have a background in theater, so this is just an extension of that."

The Kostomb Shoppe opens the last of September and sales are good right up until the day of Halloween.

Some popular costumes she's sold include children's costumes of Elvis, political costumes like Bill and Hillary Clinton, George and Laura Bush and Arnold Swartzenegger.

But she warns her customers that she only gets one or two of each costume.

"I view it like girls and their prom dresses," she said. "You want to be the only girl at the party that has that kind of dress. Halloween costumes should be like that -- one of a kind."

One of her favorite stories is of a Gulf War veteran who bought a mask of Saddam Hussein.

"He wanted to give it to his son, to put it on his desk, to say he brought back the head of Saddam Hussein," she said with a giggle.

335-6611, extension 137

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