Trick or Treat? Is the sexy costume business profitable for boutique retailers?
By Michelle Metens
Most women have a never ending desire to deck themselves out and flaunt their best assets, and party season is the prime time of the year when we have a legitimate opportunity to do just that. But when it comes to Halloween, which is the kickoff for the fall party season, just exactly where does the urge to dress up as sexy bumble bee come from??
This 1880’s Victorian hornet costume shows a very daring turn of the ankle…
Halloween is based in the ancient Celtic tradition of Samhain, a pagan holiday devoted to the celebration of the end of harvest and the onset of the dark time of year. Samhain fell on October 31st just between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. Cleansing bonfires were lit in the hope of enticing the faeries into our physical world, and the ritual as a whole was a means to appease these otherworldly supernaturals in the hopes of ensuring safety and good health over the coming winter. Divination, feasts and celebrations encouraged the souls of the departed to visit family, with places set for them at the dinner table. People went from door to door disguised or in costume, reciting verses in the hopes of receiving food in exchange for their cleverness. The Catholic church created All Saints Day as an alternative to Samhain, and eventually over the course of centuries the two were combined into the modern day celebration we all know and love as Halloween.
…but in about 40 years time, a whole lot more leg was on display!
The National Retail Federation’s Halloween Consumer Spending Survey reports that more than two-thirds (67.4%) of party goers will buy costumes for the holiday, the highest percentage to date in the survey’s eleven year history. And that means in spite of, or perhaps because of a rocky economy, shoppers want to party! Over 150 million women will celebrate this year, and not surprisingly women of all ages want to dress up, spending on average anywhere from $28 to $51 on their costumes. This is more than they will spend on any other item including candy, decorations and excursions. Women also will spend more on their own costumes than they will on their children’s, husband’s or – gotta love ’em – their pets.
Most shoppers will be heading to the discount or big box stores to buy, but about 11% will head to local stores and boutiques. How do you attract those buyers? Do you have to actually buy costumes? In my opinion it’s a toss up. You can spend a lot of time and money investing in costume inventory but by the time you’ve shuffled everything around in your store to accommodate the inventory, when the final sale rings, will it have been worth all the extra effort? Probably not. But you can entice shoppers in with a well planned and cleverly executed Halloween window display. Invest in accessories that you can use more than once over the course of a few years, and plan ahead on your lingerie inventory to have some great basics on hand that will easily translate to costume concepts.
By incorporating the inventory you already have, adding a few classic key pieces and accessories, and showing your customers how to put together their own unique costume you can insure that your October will be just as sweet as all that candy floating around the house.
It’s not too late to put a great window display together! Let these vintage beauties inspire you to have a fun, safe, successful and happy Halloween!
The ever popular “Little Devil” of the Victorian 1880’s.
Hey pilgrim can I interest you in some pumpkin pie? Clara Bow, 1920’s.
Marion Martin with her famous “Devil on my Shoulder” costume, 1930s.
Betty Grable protects the forest and shows off great gams in her Robin Hood costume, 1940s.
1950’s pinup Dusty Anderson is the purrrrfect sexy black kitty!