Crossroads retailers scare up seasonal business for Halloween


Oct. 15, 2011 at 5:15 a.m.
Updated Oct. 16, 2011 at 5:16 a.m.

Sean Phillips, 3, considers a Mater costume from the movie "Cars" with his mother, Jennifer Phillips, before settling on Darth Vader at Spirit Halloween Friday, Oct. 7.

Sean Phillips, 3, considers a Mater costume from the movie "Cars" with his mother, Jennifer Phillips, before settling on Darth Vader at Spirit Halloween Friday, Oct. 7.

On Monday afternoon, Keagan Nesloney looked like your everyday 4-year-old. The camouflage T-shirt, the blue jeans, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

But looks can be deceiving.

At month's end, the rough-and-tumble tot will ditch his duds for something more ... robotic. He plans to dress as Transformers character Optimus Prime for Halloween.

"I'm gonna trick-or-treat," he said with a shy smile.

Keagan isn't alone in his seasonal endeavors.

Nationwide, seven out of 10 people plan to celebrate Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation's 2011 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey. That's the most ever reported in the survey's nine-year history.

The average person is expected to spend $72.31 on costumes, candy and decor, up from last year's $66.28. Total nationwide spending is estimated to reach $6.86 billion.

At Spirit Halloween, a large inflatable pumpkin on the roof alerts passersby that the store is open for the season. The business opened its doors at 5209 N. Navarro St. Sept. 12 and will be around until Nov. 1, said Brent Wilborn, the store's manager.

Already, he said, it's been a busy season. The store sold out of some costumes, he said, and customer traffic is on the rise. Especially on Fridays and Saturdays.

While the bigger costumes sell well, Victoria's Spirit location is known companywide for smaller items: contact lenses that change the eye's appearance. Wilborn said the Victoria store topped company sales for the contacts in 2010 and that things remain on track this year, too.

A few doors down from Spirit, orange flags danced on top of Card and Party Factory, 5221 N. Navarro St. A shiny banner also advertised costumes for sale.

The business experienced an initial rush when it first set out Halloween items about a month ago, said Louie Miller, the store manager. There was a lull following that, he said, but things recently picked up again.

Although it's still early in the season - there's always a rush right before Halloween - Miller said business is up from 2010. He would not give dollar or percentage amounts, citing company policy.

Costumes are big seasonal sellers, he said, noting that old favorites such as zombies and pirates remain popular, but that isn't all that makes up holiday sales. Makeup, toys like sticky eyeballs, pumpkin carving tools and even seasonal plates and napkins fill shelves, too.

"We have a sheet at the counter - a 'don't forget' list, safety checklist, that sort of thing," Miller said, explaining the store planned ahead for the seasonal rush. "We also have three new employees here just for Halloween."

Across town, in a blue building at 1305 S. Laurent St., the crew at Elvira's Closet is doing its part to spread the spirit, too.

Now in its third year, the store prides itself on offering affordable costume and decor options to the Crossroads. Racks advertising $1 and $5 deals dot the small shop, while the owners even buy back gently-used costumes they then resell.

"Everybody's on a budget," said Jennifer Pyle, who helps run the store her mother, Vera Flores owns.

Like the other shops, Elvira's Closet has seen increased sales this year, said Jon David Dinkins, who also helps with the store.

He attributed that growth to expanded hours. In previous years, the shop was just open three days a week, he explained, but now it has doubled to six.

"Business has basically gained by 100 percent," he said.

Pyle said word-of-mouth helped the store grow a customer base, but said the customer interaction helps, too. Customers call and text looking for specific costumes, she said, and the store places special orders if necessary.

"I have no problem trying on a costume if they want me to, so they have a better idea of the size or how it fits," she said. "We help if we can."

As for Keagan, he's content just to keep things simple. A costume, an empty bucket and a trip around the neighborhood should suffice, so long as the neighbors have plenty of the little man's favorite candy.

"Bubble gum," he said. "I like it."



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