Jan 13, 2015
Twice the Fun
Carolee Anita Boyles, Special to Party & Paper Retailer

Cater to couples to double your sales

Couples costumes continues to be a hot category. Whether you’re stocking Robin Hood and Maid Marion, his and hers firefighters or the Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood, it’s a category you need to have in your store.

At Charades, National Sales Manager Charlie Santilena said he is seeing many customers making their own pairs of costumes when a couple’s pair isn’t available.

“For example, a couple may both purchase vampire costumes even though they aren’t matching or sold together,” he said. “Or he might buy a warrior costume, and she would buy something that goes with it. They aren’t necessarily matching costumes with duplicate styles.”

Trends and Hot Topics

Santilena said that although zombies increased in popularity a couple of years ago, he’s now seeing a rise in costumes related to the 1950s.

“I’m seeing a lot of Thunderbird jackets and poodle skirts,” he said. “Charades specializes in pirates, and we had a really big increase in sales of pirates toward the end of the year. Customers were definitely teaming those up as couples. We offer some pirate blouses and some really deluxe pirate jackets, and that category was very big for us at the end of the year.”

At Costumania in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, owner Mark Young said one trend he has seen recently is customers who purchase accessories rather than full costumes.

“Some people can’t comprehend spending $40 on a costume,” he said. “And if it’s a couple, two at $40 is $80. Customers can purchase accessories to change up a costume they already have for less.”

Of the costumes he has been selling, Young said, some recurring themes have been gangsters, pirates, Medieval and superheroes. He said that as trends have changed, he has ended up with inventory that didn’t sell in the store. His solution to the problem has been to start selling online.

“We put a lot of things on eBay because that’s a worldwide market,” he said. “We also have a website, but eBay is doing substantially more for us. Competing with the big retailers is difficult, and a lot of people want to shop online.”

Keith Johnson, chief creative officer at elope, said that many of the company’s costumes are couples costumes.

“We have Thing 1 and Thing 2,” he said. “In the Waldo universe, customers can do group costumes with three of the characters from that universe.”

Elope also does a lot of accessories, Johnson said, and caters to the couples market there.

“Customers buy a lot of things to add to their costumes,” he said. “In headwear, one of our really big sellers for years has been our Big Bad Wolf. A lot of guys don’t really like to wear costumes, so when their dates dress up like Little Red Riding Hood, they can just wear black clothing and a wolf hat.”

Johnson said the whole costume market is changing.

“Costuming isn’t just a Halloween thing anymore,” he said. “Halloween costuming is staying at about the same level. It’s not Halloween that’s causing costuming to grow, it’s year- round sales that are causing costuming to grow.”

Customers are wearing costumes in all kinds of places today.

“They wear them at conventions such as Comic Con and science fiction conventions,” he said. “Costume parties also are becoming more popular year-round. Lots of contests go on all year in different establishments. Then you have Mardi Gras and all the carnivals around the world; that’s getting bigger and bigger. St. Patrick’s Day is a costuming holiday. Even Christmas has become a costuming holiday. Last year New York City had 35,000 Santas. People are shopping for costumes year-round.”

Chuck Giovenco is general manager of Fantasy Costume Headquarters in Chicago. He said his customers do a lot of couples-oriented theme parties all throughout the year.

“They do ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and a lot of disco,” he said. “And we’re from Chicago, so we do a lot of Roaring ’20s parties. Many of my customers try to coordinate so that when they go into a party, everyone knows they’re a couple. It’s not necessarily like a Sonny and Cher, but just that the outfits are the same time period or the same colors.”

Giovenco said when he does his buying, he tries to coordinate the costumes he orders in that way.

“Because we’re Chicago, I buy a lot of gangster and flapper costumes,” he said. “Those are couples, or Bonnie and Clyde. We carry a lot that caters to that demand.”

Giovenco added that coordinating costumes has become more of a pattern over the past few years.

“Whether it’s a couple or a group of four or six, they like being more together than separate,” he said. “They even are doing that at Halloween — a guy will dress as Freddy and the woman will dress as a female Freddy, or the guy will go as Batman and the girl as Robin. They’re theme-oriented and they connect.”

That same trend carries over into accessories.

“Accessories are a huge part of costumes now,” Giovenco said. “A lot of people will have their own getup, but they won’t have accessories to go with it, so they need to dress it up. Accessories are huge.”

In Moreno Valley, California, Wizard’s Party House owner Leslie Fournier said she hasn’t seen a huge change in what couples are buying in the past couple of years.

“A lot of couples are still leaning toward the classics, such as cop outfits,” she said. “We do a lot of SWAT and sexy cops for the girls with prison costumes for the guys. We’ve seen a lot more Native American-style costumes. This year, one of the most popular ones for us has been a wolf costume that Dreamgirl did.

“It went really well with Red Riding Hood, and that was extremely popular for us,” she continued. “Firemen with a girl fireman has been strong for the last two or three years. Those are all classic couples costumes that we’ve been seeing.”

Whether you’re stocking the classics or looking to pop culture for the next fad in couples costumes, one thing is clear: it’s a category that’s here to stay. Catering to this market will drive significant dollars to your bottom line.

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