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VOL. 130 | NO. 208 | Monday, October 26, 2015

From Costumes to Candy, Halloween Means Green for Select Retailers


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Halloween is big business for the retail industry, whether it’s costumes, candy or party supplies.

Blake Poe tries a pirate costume on for size at Mr. Lincoln’s Costume Shoppe in Overton Square. The second half of October represents the busiest time of year for the Overton Square business.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The National Retail Federation reports more than 157 million Americans plan to celebrate Halloween this year. Its Halloween Consumer Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics reports the average person will spend $74.34, with total Halloween spending expected to reach $6.9 billion.

In Memphis, business owners are experiencing the rush. Barry Lincoln owns Midtown’s Mr. Lincoln’s Costume Shoppe, where he refers to the month of October as his Christmas. And while business obviously is great this time of year, he said it’s been especially so in 2015.

“This year is our best year since probably 2008 and the recession,” he said. “Business is coming back. I’d say the economy is getting better, and people are loosening up a bit. I think they’re getting more comfortable spending money.”

Mr. Lincoln’s Costume Shoppe focuses on costume rentals, primarily for adults. It’s a customer base that requires Lincoln to stay up on current events and trends. 

For example, while masks of former presidents Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton are always popular, he’s had to stock up on masks of presidential contenders Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton this year.

“You just have to keep up with the news and see what’s going on and keep up with the movies,” Lincoln said. “We don’t really have anything trending with movies this year, although ‘Star Wars’ is getting hot this year. We’ve rented all of it already.”

Downtown Memphis business Wayne’s Candy Co. also sees a heavy Halloween uptick. Gary Wilkes, owner of Wayne’s Candy, said a variety of holidays drive his business, but October is especially busy.

“We’ve always specialized in what I call everyday candy that can be sold all year in bags,” Wilkes said. “We have giant bags of candy that can be used when Halloween is over.”

“Halloween has made a comeback.”

–Gary Wilkes
Wayne’s Candy Co.

Wayne’s Candy Co. has a retail showroom at its 30,000-square-foot warehouse at 164 E. Carolina Ave. The company’s customers are a mix of individuals looking for a few bags of Tootsie Rolls to give out to trick-or-treaters to someone who has driven 200 miles to buy as much as 4,000 pounds of candy for a Halloween party.

“Halloween has made a comeback,” Wilkes said. “It died for a few years but now people chaperone events, and there are more parties.”

The National Retail Federation reports nine in 10 Halloween shoppers will buy candy this year, spending $2.1 billion. Wilkes said a backlash against sweets isn’t hurting his business. In fact, while Halloween drives fall business, schools, fundraisers and other events keep business going, too.

“There’s a lot of pressure that candy is bad,” he said. “But this is a good time for us.”

There also are a handful of national retailers that count Oct. 31 as a major economic driver. Party City Holdings Inc. – which operates more than 900 Party City and Halloween City stores across the U.S., Canada And Puerto Rico – hired 20,000 additional employees this year to handle the rush.

It recorded retail sales of $432 million in the five-week period ended Nov. 1, 2014, a 9.3 percent increase from five-week period sales in 2013. If trends hold, the 2015 sales number should be even higher.

Lincoln can relate to the fall season being a busy time. He said that while his business is swamped with customers the last half of October, it really picks up in August when customers begin reserving their costume rentals.

And while some retailers might make their money at Christmas, the Halloween season isn’t exactly Lincoln’s Black Friday, even if it is a big chunk of the bottom line. The key to being a business that has a heavy seasonal focus, he said, is to have offerings that make sense throughout the year.

“Christmas is our second-biggest time of the year because of the parades, renting Santa suits, (Charles) Dickens events,” he said. “When movie companies come to town, they come to us. We rent costumes for conventions during the year and school plays.”

PROPERTY SALES 81 277 20,909
MORTGAGES 85 329 24,074
BUILDING PERMITS 219 672 43,265
BANKRUPTCIES 64 238 13,418