2010 Costumes & Warables

With Halloween 2009 having come and gone and the trade show season just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about costumes for the next year.


But before we plan out the future, it can be helpful to look to the past. According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2009 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, 47 million adults and 58 million children across the country planned on dressing up for Halloween 2009.

For children, 4.5 million princesses were expected to show up in October, followed by two million witches, 1.3 million Spider-Men and a million pirates, pumpkins and vampires.

Witches took the top spot for adult costumes (18.1 percent), and vampires jumped to number two (4.2 percent). Hardest hit were nurse costumes, which fell from number five to number 13, and political figures, which didn’t even make the list.

“Pop culture always influences Halloween costumes,” said Tracy Mullin, NRF president and CEO, “and (with the economy), it will be interesting to see how creative Americans can get.”

What Worked
One area that got creative in 2009 was that of sexy adult costumes. With advances in technology, designers were able to add many new innovations and improved elements to the mix this past year.

“The reversible costumes launched by Dreamgirl last year had a successful year, so new styles were launched to offer the consumer two costumes for the price of one,” said Lar Hovsepian, marketing manager for Dreamgirl International. “We also debuted light-up costumes with intricate fiber optics placed within specific costumes to make them light up in patterns. We’re looking forward to these costumes sticking around in 2010, while adding some additional novel items to the line.”

Marty Imler of Disguise agreed that the sexy market has remained a dominant force in the industry, adding that the key to capitalizing on these sales is to create a successful display. Using cohesive design elements with impactful signage and other point-of-sale elements, create a story instead of just a display.

“Having a clearly defined, attractive destination for the ever-growing popularity of adult costumes will have a positive effect on sales,” Imler said. “A profitable display will also add incremental sales suggestively selling accessories and the complimentary male costume for all those Halloween partiers that want to go as a couple or in a group.”

While adult costume sales are predicted to stay strong, retailers can also expect growth in many retro properties. With the pressure of the recent economy, Imler said people are looking for tried and true familiar properties from childhood to give them a brand they trust and reminders of a simpler time.

“Retro will continue to be strong with the presence of many 25-year-strong mega franchises being promoted through toys, film and television,” Imler said. “Parents are sharing their favorite childhood pastimes with their kids who are also now fans of properties such as G.I. Joe, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Disney Princess, Barbie and many more.”

Howard Beige of Rubie’s Costume Co. agreed, saying that as the number of Halloween parties increase, they see a definite increase in product sales for adults and tweens based on the success of nostalgic licenses such as Mario Brothers, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe.

“Also expect new licenses that include the latest Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1, The Smurfs Movie, Jonah Hex, Shrek 4, Clash of the Titans, Avatar and many more,” Beige added. “I also think that a combination of both sexy and scary will provide an increase in sales with characters such as Mr. Voorhees, Ms. Krueger and our new line of vampires.”

Pick and Choose
As Hollywood continues to influence the market, certain costumes that were hot this year — wizards, vampires, princesses — will remain at the top once again. On the adult side, Hovespian said cops, sailors, pilots, army gals, cheerleaders, all-American sweethearts, sporty gals and schoolgirls generally do well for year-round parties and special themed costume events.

But more than anything, the costumes that endure year after year are the ones that have the best quality and fit, along with a good assortment of accessories that come with the costume. More accessories mean more ways to change things up, more options for the budget buyers and more sales for retailers.

“The costumes that continue to do well for us include those with a variety of accessories,” Hovespain said. “Adding new accessories, changing up a color scheme, including clever new names to the costumes and adding in male counterparts have been some of the ways that our designers keep the costumes fresh and exciting.”

Adding little details to keep things fresh and exciting will be key when selling costumes in 2010, as the economy will continue to have an impact on product purchases. However, things are looking up and customers aren’t skipping out on costumes altogether, but maybe just cutting corners where they can.

“Our costume bookings for the year have surpassed that of last year’s bookings,” Hovespain said, “so we’re hopeful that consumers are looking for some dress-up relief during this season to forget about any financial woes.”

Joe Anton, president of Disguise, went as far as to say that this season, “we’ll see more people than ever let loose and take on other personas that let them be sassy, spooky, silly or even live vicariously through their favorite childhood superhero of simpler days.”

As retailers, it’s your job to draw them in and make it easy to put together everything they need, as offering coordinated pieces with costumes and accessories together helps the customer know that they are getting the most for their money.

“Many retailers reported increased sales as a result of putting products on display in boutiques,” Beige said. “Examples of this would be a 4-foot or 8-foot section with signage dedicated to only Batman products or Harry Potter products, etc. that features costumes and accessories such as hats, wigs, make-up, etc. It makes for a better presentation and enables the consumer to easily locate and purchase multiple items to complete their costume.”

“First, offer costumes that already come with a set of accessories and are offered at an inexpensive price point,” Hovespian said. “Second, introduce basic dresses in a particular section of the store and feature a number of accessories sold separately so that the customer can pick and choose their looks from basic pieces.”

Many times, shoppers on a budget will look to mix and match pieces with things already in their closet, such as pairing a mask and accessory with one’s own apparel or wings, wand and tiara with a little black dress.

“Make-up can also be a valuable accessory to 'deluxe up’ a costume,” Imler said. “Although many people will be budget conscious, many more prioritize having a unique costume to set them apart from the rest and justify the one-day expense to escape reality.”

She added that the specialty market will be the place to go to for unique and specialized costumes and accessories needed to create that memorable costume. So, take a look at what sold best for you in 2009 and starting planning for 2010.


Originally posted Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009