Costume Trends—Need Directions?
Find out what costume trends are on the horizon
By Abby Heugel
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a trend is defined as the general direction in which something tends to move; a current style. As retailers are well aware, trends in Halloween costumes are both predictable and surprising. They often take the same direction, but tend to move into a current incarnation of that style. A new spin on an old classic, if you will.
While vampires, princesses and pirates are nothing new, these costumes show up in new forms with new functions once they show up on the big screen. In fact, anything that shows up on the big screen will be requested by consumers, which makes following the current media so important to successful sales.
But once the basics are out of the way, it's up to retailers to tap into a different kind of trend-not just the costume style, but the customer direction. After talking with industry members about the direction they see costume sales going, it became clear that couple/group sales and licensed costumes will continue trending up for 2011.
The More, The Merrier
According to Amanda Marples, marketing specialist for Disguise, retailers can prepare to see a wide variety of costumes available in some core categories:
• Boy as a variety of group characters from Marvel Heroes, Pirates of the Caribbean and Power Rangers, along with other strong classic characters including army recruits and ninja fighters.
• Girl as a variety of group licensed fairytale heroines and strong female characters from Marvel Heroes at various price points.
• Boy and girl couples that depict both the hero and heroine of upcoming theatrical releases.
• Parents and teens seeking quick and easy alternative costumes and accessories to help them participate in Halloween without spending too much time or money preparing a costume.
• Families as a coordinated group, with parents dressing to match their children's costumes.
Marples recommends retailers create group suggestions by merchandising characters of groups alongside each other or on an independent corrugate display headed by a visual of the costumes in a group.
"Graphic headers or free-standing mannequins will prove useful as they both showcase the costume (without having to take it out of the bag) and provide consumers with an array of choices on how to wear and accessorize the product," she said. "Good visuals depicting the variety of product and all the potential dress-up possibilities will aid the consumer in picking, choosing and discovering what products best suit their wallet and their personalities."
One look at our Costume Licensing List will tell you that many of the favorites will be sticking around for at least another year, but there are always new names and faces to add to the costume collection.
Movie stars, super heroes, cartoon characters, animals-even cereals and magazines-when it comes to licensed offerings, the options are virtually endless. This is especially true for kids, as generic costumes are more successful with older consumers who are less brand conscious and more driven by fashion design than character accuracy.
"Children will almost always prefer a licensed costume," Marples said. "They are heavily driven by the product's branded elements such as color accuracy, graphic detail matching and character accessories (either included or as an add-on). Children know their favorite characters like the back of their hand and are discerning shoppers with an eye for detail a generic costume won't provide."
In-store marketing should be geared toward children because they are the ones choosing their costumes, and in most cases, are visiting the store with an idea of who they want to be.
"We pick our kids costumes based on the paper goods that we are selling and also on how the picture looks on the sales cards," said Barbara Rozema of Party Plus Redlands. "If the picture is bad, it will not sell. We've even found that where our costumes are placed on our wall will directly influence their sales (if too high or low,) but the picture is the key."
"Marketing to kids is mainly driven by visuals showcasing the character and its accompanying product immediately around," Marples said. "On the other hand, online and print marketing should be geared to parents; they're the ones with computer access doing price comparisons and research on their children's Halloween choices."
Head to Toe
Halloween 2011 is about expanding the options and choices to all the costume consumers, especially parents and teens. Many are looking for economical ways to create creative costumes without breaking the bank. The solution is adding on accessories-from head to toe. Most manufacturer catalogs will feature add-on options, so it's all about browsing and picking the most popular items.
"Some research on the characters (including watching the movie, or looking through comic books or magazines) will secure you the best accessories," Marples said. "Once a retailer has them, they need to be merchandised immediately next to the complementing costume. Packaging or mannequins showcasing the character wearing the add-on are both great and necessary visuals that can easily secure the sale."
When it comes to shoes, Lydia Conley of Ellie Shoes said they have expanded collections to include the growing trends the believe will eventually sustain the costume community, such as Steampunk and Bollywood.
"Though they're not new, we believe we will begin to see more and more costumes within this trend," Conley said. "Peacock is another costume we saw a lot of this year and think will continue. The peacock feather is a hot commodity in the fashion world and we're seeing a lot of it on the runways in Europe."
And even if peacocks or Steampunk don't appeal to your demographic, Conley advises retailers in 2011 to set aside some "fun" dollars for the new stuff coming out that you can use to test new items.
"It's fun to roll out a show stopper instead of sticking to the basics all the time," she said. "It helps to draw traffic, generate press and find out if there are any new niches in your target market that you were not aware of."
And who knows? You might just start a new trend.
Of course there are times when adults want to dress up as just that-adults-and the sexy costume sector isn't going anywhere but up in 2011. Along with the licensed properties on our Costume Licensing List, there are also new ideas and innovations hitting the market this year.
Melissa Hanana, public relations coordinator for Coquette, gave us a few tips for success and a preview of expect from Coquette.
• Not only are sexy themes popular for 2011, but animal costumes are continuing to grow in demand. Similarly, costume trends are always forecasted by movies. Pirates, vampires and horror film characters have become more popular in recent years due to pop culture.
• When it comes to style, costumes that are sexy but with full coverage will dominate overall. Costumes that have universal appeal and are offered in plus sizes are what we find to be bestsellers.
• This year more of our costumes are made of woven fabric that has an overall higher quality and creates a more flattering silhouette. We are also merging lingerie into some of our costumes through our costume themed corsets and matching skirts that are sold as separates. We find that this make-your-own-costume option allows the customer to "build" a costume unique to them.
• We always suggest that retailers stock the traditional role-playing themes year round like school girl, French maid, nurse and police officer costumes. It's also a good idea to stock sporting costumes during playoff seasons like the World Cup, Super Bowl, NBA, Stanley Cup, etc.
• Hosiery can make the perfect addition to complement most costumes and is always a great way to customize a costume to give it a unique look.