Shop Talk: Performance Studios

Shop Talk: Performance Studios

Spotlight On: Nashville, Tenn.

For what you need from top to toe

What began in 1988 as Interstate Cosmetics, an 80-square-foot store in the corner of a lighting shop, has grown into Performance Studios, a 17,000-square-foot retail space in Nashville, Tenn., with more than 20,000 costumes and accessories, two fully functional hair salons and a wide variety of makeup and professional services.

Owners Glenn Alexander and Gary Broadrick started the company under the premise of creating a line of cosmetics to be worn daily, as well as used professionally that would be distributed through hair salons.

"It was our belief that women should buy their makeup where they get their hair done and have available to them a quality product at a good price point," Broadrick said. "As the makeup line continued to grow, so did the space we occupied, allowing us to add a few wigs from Lacy Wig Co. and a few accessories from Caufields Novelties. It just made sense to us that with makeup artists coming into the store to buy makeup, we should have other items that they may need in their production work."

Broadrick had worked as an entertainer and makeup artist in the mid 1980s before opening the small makeup store in 1988, but said their retail experience has been strictly, "learn as you go." Alexander and Broadrick also attribute a lot of knowledge concerning displays, organization, trends and everything that goes along with the industry to joining The National Costumers Association 12 years ago.

Top to Toe
"It is our belief that any event that encompasses costumes or makeup begins when the customer walks into the store and starts choosing what look or character they want to be for the event," Broadrick said. "If a client has an idea, we have the ability in most cases to see it through from top to bottom."

The retail store itself is basically split in thirds, with one-half of the floor space devoted to costume rental inventory, including 12 dressing rooms. Half of the remaining space is retail costumes and accessories, including the "hat closet," the "shoe closet" and ten additional dressing rooms to try on retail costumes. The remaining space is dedicated to wigs, makeup, the hair salons and styling services.

"We have two fully functioning hair salons on site and those stylists rent the space from us," Broadrick said. "They have regular hair clients, so it works perfectly with our cosmetic line. We have makeup and wig artists on staff that have the ability to create just about anything a customer would want. That includes an airbrush artist and special effects."

During the Halloween season they hire an additional 12 makeup artists and book appointments for them during the peak days. Broadrick said they've seen a big increase in recent years of the number of clients that want and are willing to pay for professional services.

Performance Studios started adding costumes and accessories to it's inventory in the early '90s when Halloween started to become the more "adult" holiday it as today, so the timing of adding the costume retail and rental was good.

"Retail is easier, as customers don't expect it to fit perfect and we don't have to worry about the customer damaging the product while they are using it," Broadrick said. "However, we must carry various sizes of everything because there is no altering retail costumes, so we have to keep close eye on accessory stock all year."

Rental inventory comes from not only manufacturers in the industry but from private individuals who donate items they had in storage or inherited. Broadrick said adding rental stock to the store is a much larger investment than retail items because you must use quality, long lasting items.

"Cleaning and maintaining is a huge part of renting costumes, and after the 2010 season, our laundry that is all done in-house didn't get finished until the first of June," he said. "We do try, however, to make sure that rental costumes we need for Christmas are done first, followed by what we may need for the next holiday to stay ahead of the game."

During Halloween season, retail and rental is about a 50/50 split for them. During the rest of the year, rentals are more profitable. Despite the paper work involved with deposits and contracts and the cleaning, Broadrick said you don't have the cost involved with rentals that you do in retail.

"You sell it and then you get it back, you have the option of making it fit and employees can put together a complete look," Broadrick said. "Retail might be easier, but renting gives us more satisfaction in a job well-done."

Spiking Sales
How do they recover from Halloween?

After taking a long weekend in November, they print reports categorized by company that lists every item in inventory and what quantity sold for each month throughout the year. They then begin purchase orders for their main vendors so that by the end of the year they have Halloween purchase orders in the computer for all existing products that are ready.

Broadrick said they'll place orders as early as possible for existing items so they can concentrate on new items as they see them, always trying to stay ahead of the game.

"Because of the music industry in the Nashville area, there are vintage and retro clothing stores that sell and rent all over the place," he said. "Those, in addition of the temp stores in the area during Halloween season, create a lot of competition in the market. We have worked hard to brand ourselves as a year round store with a professional sales staff and try to make it so that if anyone in our area thinks of costume, wigs, makeup or costuming accessories, they automatically think of us."

They do this with year round advertising and sponsorships, and Broadrick feels that, for them, television works best.

"We feel we are a visual industry and our customers want to ‘see' it," he said. "In addition, we've developed a character named ‘Spike' that is used in all our marketing.

People in the area recognize his face and know what he represents. We have been using the same ‘branded' character for 11 years continuously and he's become synonymous with what we do."

While the store currently doesn't currently sell costumes or accessories online, it does have a strong presence on Facebook. The page constantly is updated with new products, ideas and fun pictures to generate interest, and every Saturday, employees pick a different theme and dress-up accordingly.

"This is something they came up with on their own with no encouragement from us," Broadrick said. "They enjoy it and our customers love it. It gives us a new fun picture to post every week on and gets the store's name out there more."

They've worked hard to get the store's name out there for 23 years, and despite all the long hours, Broadrick couldn't be happier.

"It brings a smile to our faces remembering the original 80-square-foot space," he said. "It's nice to see the growth and notoriety that we are fortunate to have achieved."

By Abby Heugel
Managing Editor


Originally posted Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011