NCA executive director Ed Avis takes a look at the importance of bricks-and-mortar retailers to the party industry and considers how the costume sector can help independent stores in the future.
“Halloween 2020 is finally over. It has to have been one of the most angst-riddled holidays in the history of the costume industry. At first everyone in the industry was all excited that Halloween was falling on a full-moon Saturday… then Covid blasted the world and all that excitement turned to fear. Trade organisations, including the National Costumers Association, worked overtime trying to salvage Halloween from Covid’s deadly grip.
So how did we do? Well, it really depends whom you talk to. At the NCA we surveyed our members and the results were not particularly encouraging – the majority of our members reported ‘much worse’ sales this Halloween compared to last year.
On the other hand, costume manufacturers reported very different results, with many reporting a solid year as people were still buying costumes to dress up at home. Companies making décor also hit a home run this year – everyone wanted to decorate.
So why did the manufacturers show such positive results when the members of the National Costumers Association did not? My theory is that our members – owners of bricks-and-mortar costume businesses – didn’t share in the manufacturers’ success because so much Halloween-related commerce moved online this year. People were afraid to go shopping because of Covid, but they still wanted costumes, so they bought from the web. That’s fine for the manufacturers, but bad news for shop owners.
What can we do to help the retailers now? First, as an association, the NCA needs to help our members improve their online sales, and secondly, we need to continue helping our members persuade their communities to shop local.
The shop local concept is widely appreciated these days, but Covid delivered a painful blow to the movement. We need to rebuild the belief that shopping in local stores is important, by reminding shoppers how crucial a vibrant retail scene is, with every purchase supporting local workers and business owners, as well as the overall vibrancy of a community.
I hope large associations and manufacturers will also join this fight. Overall everyone will do better if bricks-and-mortar stores remain vital, as the more potential sales outlets a manufacturer has, the better the sales.
Next Halloween is on a Sunday. That’s not as good as a Saturday, but just imagine having two nights of Halloween parties leading up to the actual holiday? That could be a lot of costumes sold and rented. Let’s hope the majority of them are sold and rented by bricks-and-mortar stores.”