Party retailers report low-key World Book Day

Party retailers have, somewhat unsurprisingly, reported that this year’s World Book Day – which took place yesterday, Thursday 4 March – was a far more muted occasion than previous years, due to the virtual nature of this year’s event.

One of Jollyjesters’ customers made this home-made costume which paid tribute to Julia Donaldson’s ‘Smed & The Smoos’ using a customised Maleficent headband, red face paint and green hairspray.

Despite the official World Book Day charity managing to take most of the literary event online for this year, the focus on dressing-up to celebrate children’s favourite characters has varied greatly across the country. Traditionally one of the UK’s biggest costume occasions (second only to Halloween), this year’s event saw fewer schools asking for children to dress up – perhaps as they recognised the pressure that parents juggling work and remote schooling are currently facing.

“The shop was closed of course, but we didn’t see much online activity either,” reported Justin Heaven, owner of Fantasy World costume shop in York. “We made about £40! There was a completely different focus this year and we just had nothing happening locally. We hope it will be back with a vengeance next year, but at the moment that seems like a very long way away.”

As a non-essential shop, Kate Moore – who runs Jollyjesters in Derby – had initially planned to offer socially-distance click-and-collect from her home address.

“I was going to offer a load of brand new kids’ costumes at hugely reduced prices – mostly £4 up to £10, just to get a bit of cashflow and to help my loyal regulars. As it turned out, with primary schools not opening properly until next week, the demand was non-existent… but that’s okay, I was there if they’d needed me.”

“Although there was one woman who sent me a message at six minutes to midnight on 3rd March looking for a Suicide Squad Harley Quinn costume for her five-year-old daughter for the next morning before 8.30 am. I bet even Amazon Prime would have struggled with that one!”

“Any last-minute items turned out to be accessories such as hairspray and face paints. The requests came from people who didn’t realise that fancy dress shops were classed as non-essential. ‘What time do you close today?’ was the most-asked question via Facebook and email, although ‘My internet order hasn’t arrived’ was also high on the message list. But generally, with home-schooling still a thing, dressing-up – especially in costumes that cost money – has been low on people’s agenda in this area.”

Despite a disappointing start to the year, Justin is still hopeful for the future. “We are hoping parties pick up in the summer, with lots of garden parties and Hawaiian themes, etc. I am a little worried about the lack of stock and supply from some manufacturers and we have been having real problems with Brexit – my weekly deliveries from the EU used to take three days and are now taking between 10-15 days. Hopefully we will have a good Halloween but in all honestly I think any increase in trade will be coming from our competitors closing.”

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