by Aaron Burns

MOORESVILLE – Most retail outlets look forward to Black Friday and Christmas Eve because they are sure to make money on those days.

Not so with costume stores.

Halloween is the best time of the year for them. According to a National Retail Federation study, Halloween is an $8 billion industry. The study said costume stores comprise more than 35 percent of that amount.

For Party City and Morris Costumes, two of the area’s largest costume stores, this is their time to make revenue.

“Halloween is by far our busiest holiday of the year,” Party City spokesperson Julia Darrenkamp said. “It’s basically our Christmas.”

Party City has 750 locations nationally, including one store in Mooresville and three stores in Charlotte. The company expects to hire 20,000 temporary employees to handle the influx of customers buying Halloween costumes, decorations and party favors.

One long-standing trend continues:  Halloween is no longer a holiday just for kids.

“It’s become a universal holiday,”
Darrenkamp said. “It’s always going to be for kids and trick-or-treating, but adults can take part and they do now. So you’ve got to have a supply of costumes that are appealing to them as well.”

Amy Morris, co-owner of Charlotte-based Morris Costumes, said her company earns approximately 60 percent of its annual revenue during the Halloween season – which runs from late August to the beginning of November.

Halloween is different from all other holidays, she said.

“Every other holiday you’re buying a gift for someone else. Halloween is a personal one, you’re getting something for yourself,” she said.

Morris Costumes, like Party City, is open all year. Its subsidiary, Halloween Express, only operates transient stores for 2 1/2 months annually. The four local Halloween Express stores are located in Mooresville, Pineville, University City and the Cotswold area of Charlotte. There was a location off Sam Furr Road in Huntersville last year, but the company couldn’t get a lease for the site again.

“It’s hard to get the same site two years in a row,” Morris said, “So you’ve got to make sure you advertise well about your new locations. Having year-round locations helps with that.”

So does knowing your clientele, which continues to increase Halloween spending.

The NRF projects more than 70 percent of Americans will spend around $80 on Halloween this year, a $7 increase over the previous year.

Morris said her company’s customers spend an average of $35-$45 on costumes per visit, if not more.

“I think it’s higher than that,” she said.

Morris Costumes specializes in costumes, so they don’t provide as many  decorations as Party City. However, both businesses continue to thrive as the Halloween industry expands because each has its different product line.

“We all are a little bit different,” Morris said of Halloween stores. “Any business in the retail sector needs to have its own niche. We all make it work.”