Jan 9, 2020
Style and Service

The Costume Scene is a Halloween and party retailer that sells bagged costumes and custom creations

The Costume Scene is a staple in the community of Trenton, New Jersey. When it looked as if it would close, Amanda Sharp took it over. She will celebrate 6 years this coming Halloween as the business owner for the retail store.

Sharp’s mother, a co-owner and the person who performs daily operations for The Costume Scene, has been a mentor to the young entrepreneur. She has really helped me learn about business and the previous owner of the shop helped me get the hang of everything for the first year,” Sharp explained.All photos courtesy of The Costume Scene.

The Costume Scene offers over 10,000 theatrical costumes for customers to rent and the store itself sells packaged costumes, masks, make-up (theatrical and SFX), accessories and even theatrical contact lenses. “Our wig and make-up selection is pretty diverse and fun; our customers love it. Additionally we do wig styling and makeup applications which our customers love,” Sharp said. “Also, we have a lovely assortment of masks that do very well.”

Sharp explained that the shop has a broad customer base. “It’s a pretty solid mix of individuals, theater companies and schools. Our customers are mostly regulars and return to us for any of their costume needs,” she said.

The store’s niche is costume design and construction, costume rental, and makeup applications. “Not too many places in the area offer custom design services, can apply prosthetics makeup or offer costume rental. We are proud of what we offer folks!”Amanda Sharp, owner, designed, sculpted, molded and applied this prosthetic to her model Tristan.Amanda Sharp, owner, designed, sculpted, molded and applied this prosthetic to her model Tristan.

One thing this store is not is a pop-up Halloween store. Because The Costume Scene is not a seasonal-only business it has been able to differentiate itself in the industry. “There are not a lot of theatrical rental houses anymore. We are year-round,” she noted. “We are a small and local business.We provide QUALITY goods to folks in our community, and now with the webstore, we can provide that to anyone!”

Customer service is a key ingredient to the success of this business. “You can come in and try before you buy. If you purchase something and don’t know how to use it, we will show you,” Sharp emphasized. “We are versatile and offer a wide range of products at different price points. Our clients and customers love our customer service, and it’s something I’m really proud of.”

No matter how busy Sharp and her staff of three are, they focus on individualized attention, advice, recommendations and service. “We try to make everyone feel like they are a priority, and help them get exactly what they need for their event, show, or party,” she explained. “I can’t tell you how many people come to us saying ‘I bought this online, it doesn’t fit/look as it should, can you help?’ and of course we do!”

As with most costume retail stores, The Costume Scene is busiest during Halloween, but because of other offerings, it remains “consistently busy throughout the year.” To handle the busy season, Sharp will hire seasonal help to ensure customers have a positive shopping experience and the customer service that is important to the business.

The Costume Scene offers unique merchandise. “We make our costumes, but also carry other brands for the bag costumes, and we carry some higher-end purchasable pieces for those looking for something specialty, but not quite custom,” she said. “I’ve been designing costumes for the last ten years. When I design, I’m imagining the full character top to bottom. I’m inspired by everything and anything; especially art, history, nature and of course, costume/fashion history. It could take a day to make something or it could take weeks. It just depends on how busy we are, or how much time we have. Nothing speeds up working time like a deadline!”

Bag costumes are sourced from Smiffy’s, Starline, Leg Avenue, Forplay and InCharacter. “We carry pieces from Shrine and The Pirate Dressing to supplement,” Sharp shared. Her top-sellers in costumes include pirates and flappers. For theatre costumes, Sharp shared Beauty and The Beas t or Victorian styled costumes are very popular. Other top-sellers include wedding tiaras and combs and make-up.

Sharp’s customers primarily learn about the store via word-of-mouth and Google. She has also used some newspaper ads, Facebook and Instagram. “Our online advertising is the best received,” she said.

The Costume Scene offers a small, boutique environment. “I rotate inventory and what I display to keep things fresh,” Sharp said. “I love when customers say ‘I see something new each time I come in!’ Visual interest is key. Compel the customer to look at the merchandise!”

When asked if she had any business tips to share with others in the industry, she said: “As someone who just turned 30, most people have no interest in business tips from me! I think I have some non-traditional ideas about how to engage customers, especially in a digital age. At the end of the day, we all want to be seen and feel like we have a choice. I look at my customers as people, not just dollar signs, and they reward us by returning again and again.”

Sharp also shared her thoughts on competition and Halloween falling on the weekend the next two years. “I’m disappointed a lot of my vendors sell direct to the public on online platforms, it makes it hard for us to compete. That being said, we will probably do more online advertising,” she noted. “There will definitely be more parties, so with our services and customer base, we will likely have to plan for many more makeup applications and potentially more custom work.”

Sharp’s future plans are simple, she is “taking each day as it comes.” She is currently working on an online catalog of available rental costumes and will soon offer that for customers to browse through. For The Costume Scene it is truly about the people. “The best part is knowing we made a connection, helped a neighbor, and hopefully encouraged folks to support small business the first time around,” Sharp said.


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