For one month a year, New York Costumes is the busiest shop in Manhattan, with crowds flooding out the doors and around the block. It’s a situation any retail store would kill for, but come Nov. 1, the business looks more like a ghost town, due to a sharp, though predictable downturn in sales.
“At least 60% of our annual business comes during September and October,” said Justin Nelson, the Office Manager for New York Costumes, located in Greenwich Village. Nelson confesses this puts a lot of pressure on sales during this two-month period.
Other Halloween shops follow the same trend. According to one estimate, Halloween retailers make as much as 70%-80% of their income during September and October.
But the most successful shops find other products to sell to keep customers coming back during the off season. New York Costumes manages to stay open thanks to other holidays like Christmas, where people buy Santa costumes, and Purim, which Nelson calls “the Jewish Halloween.” And Ricky’s, a popular chain, sells beauty products year round.
Landes Costumes by Rachel, located in Indianapolis, is one year away from celebrating its 100th anniversary. They’ve weathered the Great Depression and are doing just fine in the current economic downturn by renting out costumes year-round. So what’s their secret?
“We rent out to theater productions, commercial shoots and film production,” said Rachel Godollei Johnson, the owner. “The big difference for us between Halloween and the other 364 days of the year is the number of people actually in the store.” Throughout the rest of the year, Godollei mostly receives measurement cards in the mail from interested parties, but during Halloween, children and their parents flock to the store to peruse its famous selection.