- Associated Press - Saturday, October 22, 2016

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Danielle Sowers is on the hunt for a Halloween costume.

She knows what she wants to be: a student from Hogwarts, the school featured prominently in the “Harry Potter” movies and books. More specifically, Sowers wants to be a Hufflepuff - one of the four groups a student can belong to at Hogwarts.

Sowers‘ friends, who are accompanying her on her quest, will dress up as students from the three other Hogwarts groups, which are called houses.

Sowers searches through the 40 upstairs Halloween aisles of Horner Novelty Co., a party supply store in Jeffersonville with another location in Louisville.

“Do you have any Harry Potter costumes?” she asks a Horner Novelty employee.

He directs her to two aisles, but Sowers doesn’t find what she’s looking for. Many people who visit Horner Novelty do, however.

Halloween is big business for the 50-year-old store - and for the rest of the party industry. Americans are expected to spend $8.4 billion on Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey

Horner Novelty sells costumes all year long, but during the spooky season, the store contains tens of thousands of masks, accessories and disturbing decorations, said Chuck Mattingly, the owner of Horner.

Mattingly is something of a costume expert after 36 years of owning Horner Novelty, but he still needs help figuring out which costumes to stock.

He listens to salespeople, calls other companies in the business for their opinions and looks on the internet to determine each year’s hot items, but the people who are really in charge are his customers - particularly the younger ones.

“The best indicator is always asking the kids,” he said. “The kids will come in, they know what they like, and they’re the ones that drive the market.”

He lists his store’s top three costumes for 2016: Comic book villain Harley Quinn, video game characters from Five Nights at Freddy’s and Pikachu.

Harley Quinn, at least, is consistent with the National Retail Federation’s top ten list of most popular costumes for 18- to 34-year-olds. The No. 1 costume for the age group is a “Batman” character, which includes the maniacal Quinn. A witch and some type of animal claim the second and third spots. For children, superheroes, princesses and animals are the most popular and for adults 35 years and older, the top costumes are a witch, a pirate and a political figure, such as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Trump and Clinton are popular costumes at Horner Novelty, Mattingly confirmed. He’s sold many masks and wigs for the candidates, as well as “Make America Great Again” hats. Mattingly actually ran out of those, he said. He planned to have more.

Political costumes are such big business that Spirit Halloween, a national company with a location in Clarksville, predicts the outcome of elections based on how many costumes it sells of a particular candidate. The company has been right since 1996, according to a news release on its website.

More people said they would dress up as Trump (55 percent) this year than Clinton (45 percent), according to a Spirit Halloween poll issued to more than 2,000 U.S. adults and conducted with the help of Harris Poll.

The poll also revealed that the top reason people would dress up as Trump would to be funny (39 percent), whereas the top reason they would dress up as Clinton would be because they like her (31 percent).

Mattingly said he’s sold more Trump than Clinton costumes this year.

Clowns, another hot topic lately, haven’t been more or less popular this year, however, Mattingly said.

Horner Novelty gets most of his business from teenagers and adults, according to Mattingly. The bigger retailers have the advantage when it comes to children’s costumes, he said.

Americans are expected to spend an average of $82.93 on Halloween this year, compared to last year’s $74.34.

At Horner Novelty, however, Mattingly expects most customers to limit their purchases to $40.

His store caters to a variety of budgets, however. His costumes’ prices range from modest ($9.99) to exorbitant (an $850 Darth Vader outfit). Mattingly’s actually sold a couple of those, he said.

People still seeking costumes in the area don’t have to stick to visiting Horner Novelty or even bigger stores, such as Spirit Halloween or Party City.

Rebekka Baker, one of Sowers‘ Potterhead friends, said she likes to put together her costumes by going to thrift stores.

Sally Keener has owned Clarksville-based Sally’s Shop Fashionable Consignments for 13 years. She helps several women a year put together costumes from her vast collection of oversized costume jewelry and fur jackets.

This year, she’s assisted an Audrey Hepburn and ‘20s flapper. Decades-wear has been popular in the last few years, she said.

Customers can put together their costumes for less at Sally’s, Keneer said. The people she’s helped recently haven’t gone over $15.

Still, some people choose to visit several places in preparation for All Hallows’ Eve.

Brenda Wilson, who own’s a Domino’s Pizza in Floyds Knobs that hosts a haunted house every year, likes to go homemade when it comes to costumes.

“Why? I don’t really know,” she said. “.It’s the fun of making it and then so many of the people that come through our haunted house, they love the homemade costumes more than a bought costume.”

But going homemade for Wilson doesn’t mean skipping out on a trip to Horner Novelty. It’s a reliable place to go for makeup and paint, she said - a one-stop shop, whereas at smaller stores she might find herself wondering if she can make what they have work.

Wilson still visits other places, however, such as Wal-Mart, or - if she’s feeling like it - Ben Franklin Crafts.

This year, Wilson plans to go as a black widow spider with pool noodle legs. A friendly one, of course. For the kids, she said.

Mattingly said he loves selling Halloween costumes, although he almost has to.

Halloween season for the public is a couple weeks in October,” he said. “For me, it’s 365 days because as soon as Halloween is over, I start working on Halloween for the next year.”

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Source: News and Tribune, https://bit.ly/2e1uCCv

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Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., https://www.newsandtribune.com


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