Area clothing merchants see march of Halloween purchases

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

Two decades ago, it was E.T. Last year, it was Spiderman. This year — and almost every year, actually — it’s Darth Vader.

Popular characters come and go as Halloween costumes, and local retailers counted on those sales yearly. With about two weeks left before the holiday, experience tells area clothing and costume stores the tried and true monsters, witches, and men in dresses will again dominate the costume spectrum.

“It’s always kind of weird when a man comes in and looks for a dress for Halloween. It’s the only time (a guy wants a dress),” said Viola Burk, a clerk at the Consigning Women used clothing store in Portales. “I think we’ve already sold one for this year.”

Area clothing stores are sure to sell a few more dresses for men, princess dresses for women and skirts for witch outfits during costume crunch time.

The retailers prepare for these two weeks by stowing away items during the remaining 50 weeks they’re open for business. It’s because of Halloween that most used clothing stores will never turn down a chance to buy a wedding dress.

“They dirty (the dress) up and put blood all over it,” said Donna Roberts, the owner of Donna’s Den in Clovis. “These (dresses) are not really sellable, but I’ll keep them for that.”

Roberts and other storeowners keep a multitude of items with the knowledge they’ll only be used as costumes. Such items include wigs, fake jewelry, old-fashioned sport coats and go-go boots.

For those who want an easier costume, there are plenty of pre-packaged options. Many area retailers sell these, but retailers are saying this year’s trend isn’t focused on any particular movie or television characters.

Craig Baarle, an assistant manager at Wal-Mart in Portales, felt the movies from this summer didn’t inspire people to purchase costumes.

“Star Wars is popular, but it’s popular every year,” Baarle said. “Fantastic 4 hasn’t made as big of a splash as (movies in past years).”

When there is a blockbuster, costume sellers usually know what to order for the holiday.

“When we first opened up in 1982, the movie E.T. had just come out, so that was popular,” said Carman Richard, an employee at Joy’s Costumes, a rental shop in Clovis. “It went to Darth Vader. Last year, it was Spiderman.”

Richard said many of the store’s rentals end up being to couples who want to dress for a theme. Some examples include Cleopatra and Marc Anthony or Little Red Riding Hood and the big bad wolf.

For solo costume shoppers, the tendencies change with age.

“There’s a lot of difference,” said Diane Foster, the owner of Bearly Used in Clovis. “Your younger children, especially boys, want a simple costume. You get your teenagers who want to look a little bit more gory.”

When the college years come around, retailers said women will generally go with more revealing costumes and men will try for humor with their disguises.

The common bond for adults, Richard said, is that the costume has to be comfortable enough to wear for the duration of the evening.

As much fun as Halloween is for those who dress up and those who sell costumes, there is the time after Halloween that retailers also anticipate. The opening days of November come, and people sell their used costumes to start another Halloween cycle.

“I get a lot of really neat handmade costumes,” Foster said. “This year I got one that was Elvis Presley, right down to the wig. It was homemade and it was really cute. It had the jewelry, it had the belt, it had the collar and the white pants.”

And if that gets sold out, there’s always another option. Some men have no business in a dress 364 days a year, but that leaves Oct. 31.

“Sometimes it’s hard to find a dress that fits them,” Burk said with a laugh. “They’ll have to go extra-extra-large.”