Dec 28, 2010
Youth Movement
Abby Heugel, Managing Editor

Marketing children’s costumes is key to securing sales

Newsflash: Children love make-believe and dressing up.

While they may dress up throughout the year, Halloween is when kids (and adults, actually) are really allowed to be kids. It’s the one night of the year when they can feel grown-up while still enjoying the childish traditions of the holiday – free candy and pumpkins included – all dressed up as a princess or a pirate.

Most kids want the things they see, which is why display and marketing are so important to retailers at Halloween and throughout the rest of the year. If it looks fun and kid’s can see it, they will want to put it on and take it home.

Southern Sales
With 36 party stores located in Texas and Oklahoma, Wally’s Party Factory, based in Ennis, Texas, is the largest privately-held, family-owned chain of party stores in the U.S. Wally’s, which also operates in some locations as Card & Party Factory and Wicked Wally’s (which are pop-up Halloween stores), began over two decades ago and has grown steadily into one of the nation’s best party-supply and Halloween costume merchants.

Buyer Kim Dean and Marketing Manager Nancy Bauman have some experience with children’s products and said that licensed items are the best sellers for children. Top items can change annually based on movie releases – Iron Man or Toy Story, for example – where they will see increased demand during a Halloween season that follows the release of the movie or a sequel.

“Some licenses are ‘evergreen’ and sell well every year, such as Disney Princesses or Star Wars,” Bauman said. “Year round costumes are generally centered on school needs and can be more historical in nature. However, some basics always sell such as clowns, the Wild West and princesses. In addition, accessories that can build a child’s dress-up box at home sell well.”

Demand for licensed costumes is greatest in the toddler and younger child sizes, as older children and tweens will buy a greater percentage of non-licensed pieces to create a look. Examples would be a generic horror look for boys or themes for girls such as “pirate cutie” or “devil girl.” Dean has also found that older children and tweens like to dress in themes from particular decades such as the ’70s or ’80s.

“We maintain an ‘everyday costume’ section that includes the more generic looks and accessories and we replenish that section monthly,” Dean added, “just as we do party supplies.”

Market Value
But the parents are the ones with the funds, so while they use their knowledge of the current pop culture or TV/movies that children are most interested in, a majority of the merchandise and marketing at Wally’s is tailored more for parents.

“The display that is the easiest to shop shows costumes by gender and age group,” Bauman said. “A busy parent knows the size range they are looking for, so we make sure to break infant and toddlers sizes from other children’s sizes.”

They group children’s costumes by theme or license and add in the matching accessories right beside the costume. By doing this, the child sees the matching weapon or headpiece and the parent can find other needed items such as hosiery or trick-or-treat bags right there where they are shopping.

“It’s important that all packaging faces the front so that the child can see the picture,” Bauman said. “This way a child who wants a specific costume will go right to the costume based on the picture. All a parent has to do is find the size.”

In addition to showing specific accessories next to the matching costumes, they also create sections of accessories that can be used for many themes. For example, they group all wings and kits together for girls and all masks and weapons together for boys. They also display in-store signs that feature reminders in each section such as, “Don’t forget: Accessories make the costume!”

Specifically featuring accessories in advertising and showcasing the advertised merchandise with in-store marketing events has also proven profitable.

“An example is an employee face painting contest, where an employee brings to life what this accessory can do for their overall Halloween costume and/or partner with vendors who conduct a face painting class for our customers,” Bauman said. “With the face painting class, we then display an end cap with the merchandise and a DVD that highlights a step-by-step guide with basic face painting techniques.”

Web Worthy
Because more and more parents are shopping online, the Wally’s marketing plan also includes a new website,, and both viral marketing and social media campaigns that target important themes for the year, such as vampires, Alice in Wonderland or Lady Gaga. Campaigns circle back to in-store displays that bring together a family of merchandise with matching accessories that can outfit even a family or group that wants to wear a theme.

Bauman said the updated and customer-friendly website is packed with tips and ideas to assist customers with all of their party planning details.

“Our goal with the new website is to not only promote interest in children’s costumes and accessories,” Bauman said, “but to provide both a content-rich site that will enhance our existing customers’ experience in our brick-and-mortar store and encourage new customers to join in on the fun.”

The technology and Web standards on the new website allow it to be user friendly for smart phones, including iPhones and iPads. The interactivity and animation effects are achieved without any proprietary formats or extensions, which in-turn makes the site accessible for customers.

“We will continue to add additional costume, accessories and merchandise images onto the website over the coming months, and will be looking at adding e-commerce functionality down the road,” Bauman said. “It provides value-added information for our customers, reinforces our brand and extends it online and into our stores.”

After all, if it looks fun and kid’s (and adults) can see it, they will want to put it on and take it home.

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