Feb 19, 2014
Cute and Cuddly
Courtney Culey, Digital Engagement Editor

Animal costumes will continue to appeal to toddlers in 2014

It hasn’t been scientifically proven per se, but it’s no secret that children love animals. Why? Because animals are everywhere. They are roaming around your local zoo, hiding out in your backyard, starring in shows on television and living inside your warm home. Perhaps that’s why toddlers and their parents are requesting animal-themed costumes by the dozens.

“Let’s face it, animals are a staple character – they have been around from the very beginning and it is a win-win costume idea when it comes to infant and toddlers,” said Alan Geller, president of Fun World.

Toddler Trends

According to Danielle Shaw Doyle, assistant manager at Kids Costumes in Toronto, parents aim to select costumes their toddlers will recognize. And parents aim for cute and cuddly.

“Usually the animal costumes are very cozy, which makes them appealing because who doesn’t want to cuddle their toddler,” Shaw Doyle said.

Manufactures are noticing the same trend.

“How can you not love something that is soft, cuddly and oh-so cute?” Geller said. “Of course parents love to put their little ones in an animal suit. Some are playful as a Little Stinker (skunk), others are sweet and simple like bears and bunnies.”

But it’s not just bears and bunnies; animal costumes now include monsters, dinosaurs, owls and hundreds in between.

“The soft fabric on our costumes is warm and cuddly like the stuffed animals children adore,” said Diana Clements, president of Princess Paradise. “Toddlers don’t tend to be drawn to be licensed characters yet; instead they are drawn to cute and cuddly animal characters.”

But who has the final say? Do the toddlers decide or do the parents purchase their animal costume of choice?

“Once a child can talk, they usually share their opinion,” Clements said. “Before that, the parents usually rule. It is very important that the fabric and construction of the costume is comfortable or even the nontaking child will make it known that they do not like the costume.”

Shaw Doyle agreed.

“Sometimes parents will pick a few costumes they like and then hold them up to see what reaction they get,” she said. “Sometimes toddlers will gravitate to one in particular, but that doesn’t mean that it’s what the parents will buy.

“We recommend that customers shop with their kids,” she continued. “That way they know the size is right or if their little one might absolutely refuse to get into it.”

She said that toddlers don’t seem to be influenced by trends or events. Instead, they are in search of something they recognize, which explains why dog costumes were a bestseller at Kids Costumes in 2013, with chickens and ducks close behind. Shaw Doyle doesn’t expect much to change in 2014 – farm animals and dinosaurs will remain a must-have, and dragons will continue to gain popularity.

In 2013, Princess Paradise had a wide range of best-selling animal costumes: T-Rex, Pinkie Poodle, lambs, owls, dragons, horses, wolves, kitty costumes and foxes. Clements expects the same to be popular in 2014 with a few added newborn styles. When asked what animals were popular for Fun World in 2013, Geller responded, “What weren’t?”

“Monsters were all the rage, there’s not doubt about it,” he said. “But the traditional animals were going strong: mouse, bear, cat, pup, skunk, cow, giraffe and dinosaur. And some of the less traditional animals seemed to do well, such as owls, kangaroos and koalas.”

Geller said that “unless some new magical animal comes along in literature or the media,” the traditional animal costume characters will hold strong in 2014.

Marketing Materials

At Kids Costumes, animal costumes are incredibly unique – most are made on site and are manufactured to appeal to both genders.

“Personally, I think all costumes work for both genders,” Shaw Doyle said. “Having said that, there are certain animals that customers perceive on girly, like bunnies, even if they are completely white with no hint of pink. And because pigs are pinkish in color, they are typically not picked for boys.”

Clements agreed and said retailers can market the same animal costumes to both genders. There are some costumes made for boys and girls alone, but as colors and designs evolve, the unisex portion is becoming much larger.

And what’s the ideal price point?

“Usually, parents don’t want to spend much because they don’t think they will get much use out of it,” Shaw Doyle added. “Of course, there are some parents who really like our over-the-top special animals and will special order something more expensive.”

For those customers looking to save a penny or two, she said the store sells cheaper packaged animal costumes of lower quality.

“We are receiving more and more requests for better fabric, higher quality costumes,” Clements said. “The customers recognize the difference and are willing to pay for it.”

She also acknowledged that some customers are shopping on a budget, so she suggests that retailers have a market for both price points.

Geller agreed. “We have to consider all customers and what they want to or can afford to spent,” he said. “Overall, some parents will spend more on their children, but many parents are embracing a simpler or less expensive way of celebrating Halloween. The shelves and racks have to offer something for those customers as well.”

As a retailer, you know the importance of display. Princess Paradise’s products tend to showcase best hanging on a hanger, and Clements said a photo wall works well, too.

At Kids Costumes, items designed for toddlers can be found in one easy-to-access place, and animal costumes hang from racks for everyone to see.

As a retailer, you also know that the proper product selection is indispensable. When deciding which costumes to carry, Shaw Doyle suggests that you pick animal costumes that are recognizable and to remember that comfort is key.

“If a costume is too hard to get in to, a lot of toddlers get really irritable, really fast,” she said.

But remember, your market is the most important thing.

“Know your customer,” Geller said. “Every store has their own demographic-economically, socially, etc. – all the elements that make up a community and a consumer base.”

Make your customers feel welcome and let them know that the opportunities in your store are endless – and just a little cute and cuddly, to boot.

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