Get a look at what's in store
At the end of the day, a costume is a costume, and customers can decide what they want and who they want to buy it from in a variety of ways. While some adults might be happy with a simple mask, others have a more discerning taste and set of criteria for their purchases.
"I once had a good customer tell me that he bought from five great costume vendors and asked what I had that was different," said Sean Monahan of Party King. "Why should he buy from me? Great question, and I think about that all the time. The same can be said for retailers, as shoppers don't need you if you're showing them things they can buy elsewhere."
So why should consumers buy from you? One answer is that you keep up with unique and innovative items, presenting them in a new way. Armed with information from the costume industry experts, we're here to help you along.
Mark Rosenfeld of Music Legs/Sky Hosiery said that although customers seemed to be holding back some in 2011, that could translate into more flexibility in 2012. He sees moderate sexy costumes being more in play, with a little longer hemline and a bit more coverage.
Along those lines, zombies and gore will continue to be popular in 2012, with illusion details that give costumes more dimension and create head-turning horror.
"At InCharacter, we have Drop Dead Gorgeous, our dead beauty queen with an illusion knife-through-the-head tiara," said Triton Klugh of InCharacter. "We also have our GOREmet Chef, a layered costume with detachable entrails, and Mad Scientist, our deranged doctor with an exposed brain wig."
Klugh said they're building on their strength in couple's costumes by offering new characters, such as a Dashing Director and Movie Star, with both costumes including character appropriate accessory props. They're also introducing Desert Jewel and Scorpion Warrior, an exotic, Eastern couple inspired by the romanticism of ancient desert civilizations.
"Fashion's ethnic influences show up in new characters that are timely in 2012, such as our Elite Sun God and Sun Goddess couple," Klugh added. "Inspired by the Mayan calendar, they feature bold graphics in the rich colors of the jungle accented with gold. The door is open on exploring new characters inspired by exotic cultures, reflective of our own cultural mix and how globally minded we have become thanks to the Internet."
Erin Sue of Coquette said the most innovative line they will introduce for 2012 is the horror collection, but that they've also expanded on their animal line to include a raccoon, fish, deer and some retro animal characters.
"We were also inspired by all the popularity in Hollywood with comic book characters," Sue said, "so you will see more of those themes in our Masquerade collection."
Monahan said Party King also has had great responses to their celebrity inspired themes, and they plan to unveil a much broader offering of the same in 2012, along with a few new collections.
"Our brand new patented ‘Shaper Costume' collection has built-in bodyshaper features that enhance the wearer's figure, with enhanced bust lines and slimmer torsos as the end result," he said. "We'll be offering this collection in sizes S to 3X."
Lights and Licenses
When it comes to innovations, Dreamgirl has expanded their line to include new interactive costumes that light-up or have a sound and motion sensors in the front panel that respond in sync to music, chatting or dancing.
"We are also adding sexy costumes with sound affects like a siren for the fireman and police officer," said Alicia Brockwell of Dreamgirl, "and have also developed new light-ups that accent all the sexy parts of a woman - the neckline, legs and hem. In addition, we've added couples costumes with matching sound and motion special effects."
Colleen Jordan from Seven 'til Midnight, predicts their "Costume or Play ... Wear Either Way" category will be a big hit for 2012. The collection allows you to wear every outfit two different ways - alone as a bodysuit or with its included tutu or skirt.
"Both ways look fresh and fun, but one just happens to show more off," Jordan said. "The collection focuses on classic costume styles that include a kitten, ladybug, officer, bee, maid, nurse, schoolgirl, angel, soldier and pirate, but gives them an updated twist."
Music Legs/Sky Hosiery will be unveiling their first licensed costumes, the Terminator, with a simple yet bold and sexy take on the iconic movie for both men and women, and Leg Avenue has announced a new licensing partnerships with the NBA.
"Sports-themed costumes for women are pretty new to the market and we anticipate success not only for Halloween, but year-round for all the fans," said Lisa Griffin. "Leg Avenue is also introducing new officially licensed ‘Grease' costumes. We're taking the beloved characters of Grease and giving them a Leg Avenue makeover."
At Ellie Shoes, you can expect their new 2012 styles to be trendy and recognizable, yet have a fresh twist, like a different shape heel or height or a variation in fabric.
"We follow trends like Vampires, Steampunk, Superheroes, etc., but we also recognize that there are ‘staple' costumes - nurse, witch, maid, naughty officer, school girl - that are year round and will never go out of style," said Ellie's Bridget Silvestri. "So we will always offer both new trendy styles and new staple styles."
On Trend, On Display
Now that you have the right items, you have to show them in the right way. Griffin said that creating a "store within a store" has always been a popular and easy way for customers to find the products they are looking for.
"A section in a Halloween store featuring Leg Avenue costumes and accessories makes it an easy one-stop shop for customers to get all the fun pieces to complete their look," Griffin said. "Placing the costumes, petticoats and hosiery near each other helps the customer envision their ‘look' and makes for a higher average dollar sale."
Klough said that encouraging shoppers to browse by character allows them to explore different price point and design options within a category, and Monahan added that whenever you can feature a costume out of the package, it helps.
"Granted, there's not enough space to do that for every costume, but I would feature the most innovative and unique products in the window or at the front of the store," he said. "For example, our Light Up costumes are far more impressive on display as opposed to in the bag. Customers can get involved with all the control features (turning them off, on, blinking, etc)."
It's also important to have a big assortment of kits and accessories for those customers who don't want to spend a lot of money or those who want to put together their own outfit.
"Putting these items together is natural, and makes them easier to sell," Jordan said. "Also, smaller items like our gloves, ruffle panties and hosiery are great placed near the register as last minute purchases."
Because even if shoppers can find certain things elsewhere, you have to give them a reason to look nowhere else.
By Abby Heugel