Apr 2, 2010
A Quick Sale

Despite an economy that’s remaining cool, sexy costume sales are still hot. That’s particularly true as Halloween approaches and customers start making last minute purchases.

Christopher Scharff, CEO of Dreamgirl International, said adult Halloween costume purchases tend to be very close to the holiday.

“The entire business is last minute,” he said. “The sale of sexy costumes occurs in just the last few days before Halloween. The fact is that adults don’t buy costumes as far in advance as kids do, and they tend to buy them just within the final week before Halloween.”

In other words, Scharff said if you have sexy costumes on the shelf and they haven’t sold by Oct. 20, that doesn’t mean you’re still going to have them on the shelf come Nov. 1.

“It’s a white-knuckle business,” he said.

To help make sure you don’t have all those sexy costumes sitting on the shelf after the holiday, though, you need to let your customers know you have them. We’re making an assumption here that you’ve done your homework, you know your customer base and that your customers are interested in sexy costumes. If you’re in a very conservative area where sexy costumes don’t sell, you won’t want to promote them in some of these ways – but then you won’t have them on your shelf anyway. However, these ideas can be modified and used for any type of costume sales.

Leading into the last two weeks before Halloween, Scharff suggests you engage into a variety of guerilla marketing techniques.

“This can include couponing, advertising at bus stops and in newspapers and sponsoring Halloween parties,” he said. “You need to do anything you can in the final days leading up to Halloween to produce awareness in the mind of the consumer that you are the resource for sexy costumes in your geographic area.”

Guerilla marketing can include using radio, flyers, coupons at nightclubs or anything else to advertise that you’re going to sponsor a Halloween party at such-and-such a nightspot.

“Or it may mean having someone in a Halloween costume standing by the side of the road with an arrow pointing toward your store,” Scharff said. “Do absolutely anything you can to stand out from the rest of the pack. Generally, most retailers have a lot of success when they sponsor Halloween parties because they create a lot of awareness of the store.”

At Party Productions in Fort Dodge, Iowa, costume shop supervisor Meredith Smith said her sexy costume sales aren’t quite that last minute but they do peak very shortly before Halloween. Promoting sexy costumes in the Heartland is fairly traditional.

“We just make sure we have all our advertising out,” Smith said. “What we do is pretty standard – TV and radio, that sort of thing – and we send out discount coupons to our customers from previous years. We also make sure we have sexy costumes on a lot of the mannequins in the store so customers can see what we have.”

John Sharapata, owner of Seasonal Reflections in Concord, Calif., agreed that much adult Halloween business is right before the holiday.

“We sell a lot of products up right through the last week of October,” he said. “We definitely do a lot of business the last week before Halloween, and sexy costumes are a large part of that business.”

To promote sexy costume sales during the last week of the season, Sharapata takes advantage of marketing materials he receives from Leg Avenue, Dreamgirl and Secret Wishes.

“We get their life-sized posters and put them up where customers can see them as soon as they walk into the store,” he said. “We also put some just outside our doors. And we keep our doors standing open – we don’t close the doors during that time frame so people see these models wearing sexy costumes from outside, and then all over the store when they come in. That makes them say, ‘Oh, I want that costume.'”

The other thing Sharapata does is set up themed mannequins in the glass windows of the storefront, which is quite wide.

“For example, Rubie’s has Reno 911 costumes,” he said. “We have the male costume, which is quite sexy for a man’s costume, and the female costume, which is very sexy, and we put them in the window to create a police theme.”

Sharapata said he uses sexy and plus-sized mannequins, but not those that are extreme.

“We put them in the window, and that makes a lot of people come in and check out what they’re wearing,” he said. Frontliners at Seasonal Reflections also put emphasis on sexy costumes. One brand Sharapata really likes for female customers is Dreamgirl because many of their costumes have dual use.

“For instance, they may have a costume that can be either a butterfly or a bumblebee,” he said. “That way customers can get two uses out of one costume, and that’s a big deal. A lot of customers get really excited about that.”

Another way Seasonal Reflections encourages sexy costume sales is by providing changing rooms, which many party stores don’t have.

“People want to try on costumes,” he said. “When someone goes into one of the changing rooms we’ll ask them how the costume fits, and if they don’t like it, we’ll bring them other options while they’re still in the changing room. When we do that, we usually end up making the sale.”

And making that sale is the goal, whether it happens a month before the holiday or just the day before.

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