Halloween costume stores are busy, but shoppers spend less

If the Halloween experience holds true for the next couple of months, no-frills could be the theme again for the Christmas shopping season.

Costume shops report that revelers have turned out in decent numbers; dozens of people stood in line outside the door at Halloween Mart on Thursday night to load up on masks, capes and fangs. But many have spent less on themselves and their kids than in the past.

Because Halloween has grown into the second-largest sales season of the year, retailers have come to regard it as a forward peek into how they will do during the all-important weeks following Thanksgiving.

“Our sales have been pretty equal,” said Ann Siegel, owner of Halloween Mart, one of a handful of permanent costume stores in Las Vegas. “Across the board, we have been a little bit affected by the economy.”

Nevertheless, she said she was “pleasantly surprised” by the store’s performance.

Marc Salls, the owner of Star Costume and Theatrical Supply, said his traffic and overall sales had gone up. But, “we are seeing smaller tickets per customer,” he said.

Halloween Town customers have followed a similar trend, said owner Michelle Pignatello, sticking mostly with the necessities to get them through trick or treating or a party. Accessories and props have stayed on the shelves longer.

“We had an optimistic feeling that the recession was lifting, but that has not been the experience,” Pignatello said. “Business has not been horrible by any means, but it has not been as great as we expected.”

Complicating the market, the permanent retailers report that pop-up stores, those that take empty strip mall spaces for only a few weeks, have proliferated this year. In doing so, they have taken advantage of the rising retail vacancies in Las Vegas that have triggered falling rents.

According to the National Retail Federation, this wasn’t supposed to be a so-so season. The trade group’s annual survey projected that people would spend an average $66.28 this year on candy and costumes, 18 percent more than last year and matching the total in 2008. Close to one-third of the respondents planned to trim their budgets, while 11 percent said they would not only dress themselves up but also their pets.

Overall, this translates into $5.8 billion in spending. The Retail Association of Nevada calculated that this would translate to $130 million in the state, but officials could not be reached to see whether they thought spending was on target.

With a national market, Henderson-based Quality Candy has improved its sales this year, co-owner Laurie Redmond said, with dollar bags of peppermints and other hard candies leading the way.

“One dollar is a very important price point right now,” she said, so the company has geared its production and packing to fit it.

Glazier’s Food Marketplace has hit its target on candy and other edible items, owner Bill Glazier said, but the store has been open just more than a year so he could not offer comparisons to the past. But he said he was surprised by the large number of pumpkins he had sold, driven by pricing per piece instead of per pound and undercutting the pumpkin patches that have moved into vacant lots for the month.

Glazier’s stays away from costumes and props to avoid going head to head with other shops.

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at
toreiley@lvbusinesspress.com
or 702-387-5290.

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