Economy not spooking area businesses selling Halloween items

Thursday, October 23, 2008
Halloween decorations are available at Younghouse Party Central.

While the economy may be shaky, businesses aren't seeing customers skipping purchases of Halloween costumes or party supplies.

"We're well ahead of last year's sales," said Rob Younghouse, co-owner of Younghouse Party Central in Cape Girardeau. "Halloween seems to be an outlet for people to have that one night of fun each year. When you think of the cost of buying a costume complete with accessories, which can be as cheap as 10 to 50 dollars, it's not that big of an expenditure."

Among his biggest costume sellers at both locations of his business are characters from "The Wizard of Oz," "Batman," "Star Wars," "High School Musical" and "Hannah Montana." Younghouse said costumes of Sens. Barack Obama, John McCain and Hillary Clinton sold out shortly after the store received them. While customers are still requesting political costumes, he does not plan on receiving more for fear the items won't sell once the Nov. 4 election is over.

Younghouse said that with each passing year, the costumes people buy seem to get more elaborate.

"They are getting more accessories to accompany their costumes," Younghouse said. "It's like they have to get better and better all the time. Their costumes have to be funnier, goofier and more realistic."

Fruitland resident Marty Balsmann was shopping for a black wig with boyfriend Barry Malahy on Monday at Younghouse Party Central. She said $30 was a small price to pay for what she hoped would enhance the vampire costume she plans to wear to work Halloween evening at Bayou Bar and Grill in Pocahontas.

"It's hard to pass on the selection here," said Balsmann, who was buying a Halloween costume for the first time in a few years. "In economic times I see the value in buying this wig because of what I get in return. I'll be able to use this piece of my costume for years to come."

FRED LYNCH ~ Rob Younghouse says sales of Halloween products are ahead of last year at Younghouse Party Central in Cape Girardeau.

Holly Hunter, owner of the Kostomb Shoppe in Cape Girardeau, said an increasing number of adults like Balsmann are participating in the holiday because this year Halloween falls on a Friday, as opposed to 2007, when the day fell on a Wednesday.

As at Younghouse Party Central, sales at the Kostomb Shoppe are faring well since the store began selling Halloween costumes and accessories in early September.

"Halloween won't suffer like Christmas, when people feel obligated to buy gifts," Hunter said. "Halloween is the one night of the year of fun and engagement. It's a time to forget your cares, which is what Halloween should be."

The local sales trend seems to mirror that of national retailers.

According to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation, Americans are planning to spend more on costumes, decorations and candy than in 2007. Spending is estimated to reach $5.77 billion, an increase of about $2 per person.

The survey found that the average consumer will spend $24.17 on costumes for adults, children and pets, $20.39 on candy, $18.25 on decorations and $3.73 on greeting cards. The demographic planning to spend the most on the holiday is 18- to 24-year-olds, at $86.59 per person.

"Though the economy is struggling, Halloween sales may be a bright spot for retailers this fall," said federation president and chief executive officer Tracy Mullin. "Consumers, who have been anxious and uncertain for the past several months, may be looking at Halloween as an opportunity to forget the stresses of daily life and just have a little fun."

The survey found customers will celebrate in a variety of ways, with 73.4 percent of respondents indicating they will hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, 44.6 percent carving a pumpkin and 50.3 percent decorating their lawns or homes.

Donna Sternickle, owner of Alotta Fun 4U2 clowning and party planning in Jackson, expects Americans to celebrate Halloween regardless of how the economy is faring.

"Sure, the economy has affected my type of service-oriented businesses because it's not a mandatory expense," said Sternickle, who has been painting body art on trick-or-treaters for the past 15 Halloweens. "But I don't see it affecting my business in a major way. No matter what, families understand it's important to celebrate this day."

Haunted houses such as the Haunted Hall of Horror at the Arena Building in Cape Girardeau have noticed a significant increase in attendance.

During its opening weekend, the event drew people from Poplar Bluff, Mo., to Ste. Genevieve, Mo., with totals of 830 Friday and 941 Saturday. That's compared to 2007 opening weekend totals of 610 and 712.

"One reason is the prices for our event are pretty reasonable, so it's still considered a more family-friendly price," said Scott Williams, city of Cape Girardeau recreation division manager. "And we're local, so that helps with gas prices."


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