Aug 20, 2012
Superheroes: The Sequel
Abby Heugel, Managing Editor

In our January issue, we gave you the scoop about the superhero costume trend that went on to sweep the nation. The good news is, it shows no sign of stopping, so any product that you have will still be relevant this year.

In fact, with the release of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” in July and blockbusters such as “Iron Man 3,” “Thor 2,” “Wolverine” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” in line for 2013, superhero costume sales look to be stronger than ever.

Super Sexy

It’s not just kids that are looking to dress the part again this year either. Superheroes and strength are sexy in their own right, and adults want to become these personas when they dress up.

“Adults remain interested in superheroes because it allows them the opportunity to fantasize something different then everyday life,” said Howard Beige of Rubie’s. “Most of the movie superheroes today are a darker, less comedic superhero than there have been in the past. Most importantly, a majority of superheroes today are just like us and not perfect, which makes it more believable. When people buy that costume, they imagine they are that superhero, even if it’s just for the moment.”

One aspect is nostalgia and the comfort of the known. Another aspect is immediate recognition – people know the characters. Sergio Lemus of Disguise pointed out that the psychology of this is essential to merchandising and marketing at retail in order to draw consumers in and build sales.

“Just like handwriting, an adult’s superhero costume choice is a clear, yet subconscious, voice of the wearer’s personality,” Lemus said. “It’s very possible we see ourselves in our favorite superhero, through both struggles and glory, through qualities we admire and qualities we wish we could emulate.”

Cast of Characters

So what characters are adults emulating this year and beyond? Rubie’s has had great success with Batman from “The Dark Knight Rises,” as well as with costumes of the lead villains and Catwoman. Lemus said that 2012 was undoubtedly a Marvel year, and with box office successes like “The Avengers” and “The Amazing Spider-Man,” costumes like Iron Man, Captain America and Spider-Man were a tremendous success at retail, even before the movie premieres.

“Female adult renditions of Spider-Man and an array of Marvel characters such as Black Widow, American Dream, Storm, etc., have also sold extremely well at retail,” Lemus said. “Focused on using metallic fabrics, girly trims and add-ons like belts, glovettes, eye masks and boot covers, Disguise offers its female consumer a complete and fashionable look in one bag.”

Understand your market and the factors that propel them to make a purchase. Diversify your success, sales and clientele by offering a variety of price points and quick costume options such as kits, masks and build-your-own-costume array of accessories.

Lemus said that complementing accessories such as gloves, boot covers, masks or character-specific weapons are always a hit. Disguise introduced licensed adult costume kits using key character components that immediately translate into some of the world’s most recognized superheroes. This option is perfect for parents taking their kids out, a teenager with a tight budget or a hardcore fan looking for something quick.

“Most costumes nowadays are highly advanced in terms of design and construction,” Lemus said. “Detailed graphic printing and a variety of innovative features like light-up, sculpted pieces and glow paint have really revolutionized the industry and made dress-up an all-encompassing experience for every age group, pocket book and size.”

When it comes to the sexier side of superheroes, Erin Sue of Coquette said many pieces from their Darque Collection will be popular for people who want to have a sexier, edgier villain or vampire look. Coquette’s costumes have traditionally been flirty and cutesy, but they’re moving in the direction of more dramatic looks that have specific details.

“Our designs this year are much edgier, sexier,” Sue said. “We have a number of designs for each theme ranging from full coverage to almost baring it all for role-play costumes. This year our themed corsets have been very popular as they offer the individual to have a lot of fun with personalizing their costumes and accessorizing them to really create their own look.

“We are also adding more accessories that accompany our costumes to offer a more overall feel to the outfit,” she continued. “Several of our costumes have full coverage masks, which are new to us, that add a sexy, strong statement to these looks.”

Showing Off

Beige suggests that retailers dedicate the space to have an actual boutique for the key superheroes of the season, or at least space for a total superhero shop with mixed superheroes that uses signage or a dressed mannequin to help make a strong statement.

Adults want to look good and therefore are more likely to buy add-ons that complement their costume, so make sure this need is addressed in a visually compelling and engaging display that eases the burden of costume shopping.

“My three steps to retail success are 1) engage (signage and photography), 2) educate (touch and feel experience, costume includes, visual of available product) and lastly 3) sell (finish off the sales experience with accessories, bags and makeup merchandised alongside the main purchase – the costume),” Lemus said. “Merchandising all corresponding accessories along with the costumes is a must.”

The Halloween consumer thinks linearly and “shops with a purpose” and leisurely browsing is not very common. To be successful and build more sales, build the costume – with all its add-ons – for the consumer and ease the shopping process by merchandising accordingly.

“With so many superheroes out there and a wide assortment of renditions for each, it’s very important to draw lines and definitions for the overwhelmed consumer shopping through a sea of polybags,” Lemus said. “Divide by brand and segment by character. Clear signage with logos and lifestyle photography will guide consumers not just to the brand they’re looking for, but to shop the way the retailer wants them to shop – inspire pairings and styling that may not be obvious at merchandising.”

Lemus added that sometimes retailers are so focused on sales that they forget what the dress up experience means for the adult consumer. Features like fit and pricing are crucial components of the adult shopping process, and it’s important to focus in on how you’re addressing those needs.

After all, a saggy Spider-Man suit or a too-small Catwoman corset can put a real kink in the plans of costume world domination for your customer – and your superhero sales.

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