Costume stores ready for last-minute Halloween rush

2013-10-27T14:24:00Z 2013-10-28T14:30:09Z Costume stores ready for last-minute Halloween rushBy Christine Bryant Times Correspondent
October 27, 2013 2:24 pm  • 

For area stores specializing in Halloween costumes and decorations, October is more like December.

"We start setting up for Halloween in July," said Robert Morales, general manager of Party City in Merrillville. "Halloween is Party City's Christmas."

This weekend, shoppers will flock to stores in search of the perfect costume and party decorations. Local store managers and owners have spent the past few months prepping for the seasonal rush that is very much like Black Friday to other retailers.

In fact, 70 percent of those who purchase costumes for Halloween do so in October, according to the National Retail Federation. Nearly a quarter of people wait until the last two weeks of the month to grab their costumes.

For those who work at stores that bank their business on people's love for transforming into different characters, it's both an exciting and hectic time.

"We'll be really busy this weekend into next," said Sue Copeland, owner of Costume World in Michigan City.

Because Halloween falls in the middle of the week this year, Copeland said parties will be split between this weekend, Halloween night and the weekend after - prompting some to pick different costumes for different parties.

Copeland, who has owned Costume World for 22 years, has nearly 1,200 costumes available for rental, and picking new costumes each year is a challenge - what will be in demand can often be unpredictable.

"You try to figure it out, but it's more guesswork," she said. "A lot of suppliers said Miley Cyrus would be popular this year, but I haven't had one call."

Instead, she says she chooses interesting costumes she thinks clients will enjoy, and relies on the experience she's gained over the past two decades after entering the business when her mother's antique store picked up a few costumes that were immediately popular with clients.

For Morales, working at a party store means adapting to the needs of customers.

While the store sells Halloween products year-round, as summer transitions to fall, so does the store's look inside.

"We go from one section to the first three aisles and the whole back and whole front dedicated to Halloween," he said. "We literally explode with Halloween."

Staffing levels also increase during the weeks leading up to Halloween, with associates assuming special positions like manning fitting rooms and bringing ordered costumes up front from storage - all in order to make the last-minute surge of shoppers run more smoothly.

"We put a lot of work in the store," Morales said. "It's worth it, though, when you see the kids' faces."

Other stores like Spirit Halloween only operate brick-and-mortar locations on a short-term lease - usually during the months of September and October - yet their web presence can be felt year round.

Lisa Barr, senior director of marketing and creative, said costumes aren't reserved for just Halloween.

The costume retail business also fills the needs of costume parties throughout the year, as well as school and community plays.

"You just never know when a pop up costume party may occur or a celebratory costume themed party," she said.

Copeland can vouch for this. Her Michigan City business already is planning for the first week of November.

"Right after Halloween, we'll jump right into Christmas," she said. "We've already had three people call about Santa costumes."

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