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Letter from America: Planning for a successful Halloween

I always encourage the members of our group, the National Costumers Association, to diversify their sales beyond Halloween, but nevertheless Halloween is still an essential season for most costume shops.

With that in mind, here are six tips to maximise sales this Halloween:


  1. Help those who help themselves. In other words, be sure to stock lots of accessories, make-up, fabric, used clothing, wigs, hair dye, mouldable materials and other items useful to customers who want to make their own costumes this year. If you have room, consider setting up space where these customers can create right in your store (AFTER they pay for the materials, of course).
  1. Be different. It’s not likely that you can compete on price with the ‘big box’ stores and Halloween pop-up retailers, so why bother? Instead, stock lots of cool stuff that they don’t stock. Patronize the smaller costume vendors, seek out local makers who don’t sell on a national scale, and consider stocking used garments that customers can use to piece together costumes.
  1. Do something fun. A great way to bring attention to your store during the Halloween season is by sponsoring or hosting a fun event. A zombie workshop, where you help attendees apply zombie makeup and create outfits from old clothes, is one idea. If you have the space, maybe you could sponsor a classic Hollywood horror movie night in your store or in your car park. Better yet, combine those ideas: Show ‘Night of the Living Dead’, the ultimate zombie movie, and then follow it with a zombie make-up class.
  1. Create a welcoming environment. Our weirdly polarised political environment may have made some of your customers nervous about showing their own colours. Let them know that you welcome all customers and will continue to stock the costumes, accessories and make-up any customer may want to create the look they desire. Make your store the place everyone can come to feel safe and part of a community that understands and appreciates the fantastic diversity of humans.
  1. Remember customers with disabilities. In 2022 the NCA developed the ‘Halloween for All’ campaign, which encouraged members to welcome customers with disabilities. This campaign generated ideas such as holding a special sensory-aware night, where customers who are not comfortable with crowds, noise and bright light can shop; stocking costumes and accessories that can easily accommodate individuals who cannot wear tight costumes or are sensitive to certain fabrics; and offering masks on sticks for customers who don’t want anything touching their face.
  1. Space out your sales. The last two weeks of October are probably already super busy for your store, so you don’t need an event that brings in more customers then. Instead, try some sales techniques that get customers to shop early. For example, advertise that your prices will be 10% off in September, 5% off in the first two weeks of October, and full price thereafter. Try a similar strategy with your costume rentals, if that’s part of your business. You could say that customers who pick up their rentals two weeks before Halloween can keep them until the first week of November at no extra cost. This gives them the option to wear a costume for more than one event, and it takes the pressure off your store during the super-hectic days prior to Halloween.


Bottom line: The primary advantage your store has over big box retailers is that you can make your store a welcoming and fun destination. Show your customers that your store is THE place to shop at Halloween, and hopefully they’ll come back at other times of the year as well.

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