It's conventional wisdom in retail that December is the make-or-break month. But for a few places, October is the hottest time of year as seasonal costumes, decorations and masks make up a large portion of their annual sales.
"Halloween gets busier every year it seems," said Pattie Walker, who has run Pattie's Party Palace in the city for the past 15 years. "We sell costumes and party items all year round, but where Christmas is what some stores depend on, for us, Halloween is the biggest holiday sales time."
Kerry Kass, owner of InCharacter Costume and Novelties, also finds this a busy time of year. While her costume business runs all year round, and has for 15 years, it's only in the weeks leading up to Halloween that she opens up a large retail space to deal with the increased traffic.
Both women say that decor and costume trends follow different patterns year to year, often influenced by TV or movies.
For example, said Value Village spokeswoman Sara Gaugl, according to the store's Halloween shopping survey, 48 per cent of people dressing as groups, said they were influenced by the Robertson family from Duck Dynasty, while 70 per cent of costume wearers cited social media as a place they looked for inspiration.
The survey shows that 90 per cent of kids will dress up and 80 per cent of parents planned to join in the dress-up fun.
"Four out of 10 furry friends will be in costume too," said Gaugl.
"Ninjas and superheroes are always popular with the boys," said Kass. "And the men too. I guess it's something they never grow out of, wanting to be a hero."
This year, said Walker, Superman is particularly popular since the release of this year's Superman flick, Man of Steel.
Young girls, said Kass, often go for the prettier costumes, but a huge trend this year is for the Monster High costumes, based on the Mattel fashion doll franchise which has lent itself to TV specials and video games.
Both retailers said that men enjoy comic costumes.
"They like to get a laugh," Kass said, noting that some dress as women, others as animals.
"There are the classics, too," said Walker.
"Vampires are popular and anything to do with Lord of the Rings is really big this year."
And while women often turn up the charm and sex appeal with their Halloween costumes (think sexy witch, naughty nurse and the like), Kass said they seem to be taming things down a little this year.
"They still want to look cute and sexy, but we're finally starting to see a little less skin this year," she said. "There's a little more to the costumes than there were a couple of years ago."
And zombies, of course, are a huge hit with both genders and almost all ages, agreed Walker and Kass.
"Zombies are huge all year round but at Halloween is when they really are a big thing in costumes," Walker said.
Another place people can turn, if they're seeking costume ideas, is to Headliners School of Performing Arts at 2231 McGarrigle Rd. Owner Manda Chelmak says she's selling and renting costumes and accessories from the many youth and teen productions the school has put together over the past seven years.
"I have more than 70 totes filled with accummulated costumes that we made for our shows from animal costumes, Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin and so many more," Chelmak said. "We've got '70s stuff, vintage dresses, military pieces; so anyone with a creative mind could have a lot of fun with these."
Headliners is open from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, or call 250-585-1811 to arrange a chance to view items at a different time.
At Value Village, there are a couple of ways to get costume ideas. The store holds a fashion show called Costume Catwalk every Thursday at 3:30 p.m., and there are always costume consultants in the store to help customers put together unique and affordable costumes, said Gaugl.
But while Cass has seen a drop in the traditional horror costumes, people are making up for it with their home decor, she said, noting that body parts, bones and spooky designs are all the rage for people decorating for home parties.
"Home decor items have gotten more sophisticated, we have a lot of animated creatures and things like that," Walker added.
Kass, who helps run the Haunted House at Beban Park each year, said that people are often inspired by what they see in such venues to try and create a very atmospheric look to their homes for parties or when trickor-treaters come by. This year the Haunted House theme is Scary Tales, a twisted look at fairy tale characters, and it runs Oct. 18-19 and Oct. 25-31 in the Vancouver Island Exhibition buildings.
But while the Haunted House goes for the high-octane scare, some people have to keep things a little tamer and Walker said there are many costumes that work well for teachers or anyone working with younger children, from cute animals to rag dolls and pumpkins.
"I think more people than ever do private parties or neighbourhood or block parties for kids and adults at Halloween," Walker said. "We love that and we get whole families coming in with ideas about dressing up on a theme. We love to help them and I love how creative so many of our customers are, how they get into the whole fantasy mood and look for pieces that help them create the look they want."
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