Halloween season a growing enterprise for seasonal retailers

2012-10-26T23:30:00Z 2012-10-28T00:40:06Z Halloween season a growing enterprise for seasonal retailersMelanie Csepiga Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
October 26, 2012 11:30 pm  • 

'Tis the season to be ghouly, and that's a jolly good feeling for specialty stores and larger retailers that carry Halloween costumes and decor.

The holiday once relegated to children and candy is "boo"ming with adult costumes and ever-expanding lines of indoor and outdoor decor for what is fast becoming a revenue boosting holiday for retailers.

Sue Copeland, owner of Costume World in Michigan City's downtown district, has expanded Halloween hours to meet customers' needs.

"I've got five girls that help me out on Fridays and Saturdays," Copeland said. She estimates Halloween and Christmas costume rentals are more than 20 percent of her annual rentals and sales.

Although Costume World is a seasonal business, it is open year-round. Sort of.

When Copeland opened her specialty business in a small room in her mother's antique shop, Rainbow Trades, in October 1986, she had 15 costumes and a few masks. By Halloween a year later, the business had moved to the spacious upstairs with its expanded inventory of 75 costumes.

Today, Costume World offers 1,200 costumes. Additionally, Copeland has a large selection of makeup, wigs and masks as well as fangs, teeth and various costume accessories.

Copeland said when not in peak season mode, store hours are irregular, but one phone call will bring her to the store to meet with a customer. "We live real close, so we put a sign up on the building, and the calls are forwarded to the house," she said.

Copeland said through the years her husband held a job elsewhere, so the family was not dependent on the income from the store.

"It's not something you can make a million on, but I'm my own boss," Copeland said.

Hluska Enterprises, parent company of the popular Reaper's Realm, may be geared to Halloween, but the folks at the Hammond location never stop working.

John Hluska, one of the Hluska Enterprises partners, said readying for Reaper's begins in the summer.

"We're open as Good Times Fireworks from May to mid-July. We start building Reaper's Realm in August," Hluska said.

Following Halloween, it takes two months to deconstruct Reaper's Realm which is reinvented annually.

A year-round construction crew of six to eight is employed as well as 120 actors, 50 security personnel and support staff for the season.

At one time, Hluska said the company offered Santa's Christmas Castle at the location, but it didn't do well. "We're looking at other things now," he said.

Josh Sickinger and family have to make their hay while the sun shines.

Sickinger, of Schererville, operates Harvest Tyme Pumpkin Patch, a family outing destination with games, a corn maze, rides, and, of course, pumpkins and plenty of folksy charm.

Now in its fifth year, Harvest Tyme is located between Lowell and Crown Point near Ind. 2 and St. Rte. 55, and is open October weekends only.

"We have to make it in eight days," Sickinger said. "Every year, the revenue increases substantially," he said.

"This is a seasonal business which, in my case, is a second income," Sickinger said. He is a certified public accountant.

A true family affair for the extended Sickinger family, the business caters to family fun such as birthday parties and other group outings, and Josh Sickinger said he wants to add school field trips in the future.

Owning the year-round storefronts of what would seem to be the seasonal fireworks business makes good business sense, said Phantom Fireworks Director of Operations Dan Peart. Phantom has a retail location in Highland.

"The bread and butter of our business are our retail buildings," Peart said. "Number one, it pays. Two, there is an advertising benefit to it. Three, we try to stay active in our local communities. We think it sends a good message," he said. He added, "Too, there is the continuity of management team members. We keep two to three people happy and trained all year round."

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