- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 16, 2005

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The young at heart are getting into the Halloween spirit, and retailers are reaping the benefits.

Gone are the days when the holiday was reserved for children. This year, 31.5 percent of adults will dress in their favorite costumes, making Halloween the sixth-largest spending holiday of the year, the National Retail Federation reports.

Since T.J. Pekin opened Costumes Creative in Silver Spring in 1976, he has seen steady increases each year in the number of people buying costumes. The only interruptions have been after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the sniper shootings in October 2002.

Mr. Pekin said he has noticed a slight increase over last year, but he has no specific figure.

“The increase is not one you see in leaps and bounds in this business,” he said.

Duke Middleton, manager of Masters Costumes in Arlington, said sales at his stores have been steady.

“With this time last year we’re basically even,” he said. “Obviously, in the final week we’ll see an increase. [Consumers] shouldn’t wait. I may have seven today, but I may not have them by Saturday.”

Ginger Ager, owner of Gene’s Costumes in Kensington, said the Halloween season has “a good feel to it.”

However, she said she has yet to recover from a slow period after the terrorist and sniper attacks.

“We haven’t bounced back. Some of these temporary stores come in for a month or two and interfere. I feel like we’re sharing our pie a lot more in this business,” said Ms. Ager, who has been in business for 20 years.

About 52.5 percent of U.S. consumers plan to celebrate Halloween this year, spending an average $48.48 per person, up from last year’s $43.57, according to the National Retail Federation survey.

Of the 8,106 consumers surveyed, 16.4 percent of adults will dress as witches and 6 percent will dress as vampires, said the federation’s Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey.

Among children, 11.8 percent plan to dress as a princess and 5.2 percent will become a witch for the day.

Ms. Ager said her store has sold several witch costumes as well as accessories for vampires, such as “good quality teeth.”

The local retailers say many others are choosing to dress as modern-day heroes.

“They can’t hold a candle to Zorro,” Mr. Pekin said.

This year, Mr. Pekin said, Zorro will outshine the perennially popular pirates, cowboys, military personnel, spacemen and gangsters.

Promotions for “The Legend of Zorro” scheduled in theaters later this month have piqued interest, Mr. Pekin said. Popular costumes typically stem from the favorite movie at Halloween time, he said.

At Gene’s Costumes, where “Star Wars” characters are the most popular, Ms. Ager agrees that movies have an influence. “I think it’s because another [“Star Wars”] movie has come out. I was surprised that it’s making the large comeback that it is,” she said. “We had to order more so we could accommodate the need.”

Ms. Ager said favorite characters for adults are Darth Vader and Chewbacca, while children want to dress as Jango Fett and Yoda.

Mr. Pekin termed Halloween the second largest “big children’s holiday.”

“Trick-or-treating isn’t the big part of Halloween,” he said, adding that adults enjoy taking on another personality for the night.

At Masters Costume, “Star Wars” clone trooper costumes are popular with children. “They flew out of here,” Mr. Middleton said.

Some women are taking a trip to yesteryear, with attire from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Miniskirts are a big hit. “Several are coming in for Marilyn Monroe,” he said.

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