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Getting in the spirit
Calendar boosts sales of costumes
Kylee Gerring tries on a mask Tuesday with the help of her sister, Dorothy Davis, at Target in Cumming. - photo by Jennifer Sami
Local merchants are optimistic this Halloween season despite cautious forecasts for retail sales nationwide.

The National Retail Federation’s annual Halloween survey shows shoppers will spend an average of $56.31 on the occasion, down from $66.54 last year.

National numbers aren’t frightening Richard Beacham, who manages nine north metro Spirit Halloween Superstore locations, including one at Lakeland Plaza in Cumming.

“While the cash registers at some places seem kind of slow, we are excited,” Beacham said. “We will probably have a late sales push just before Halloween.”

People may be scaling back their discretionary spending during the down economy, but Beacham said the sales ticket average is consistent with years past.

“I’m seeing people being more creative and thinking about how to put everything together on a budget so that they come in with a budget in mind,” he said. “I think more people will do Halloween because it is on a weekend.”

Indeed, Halloween falls on a Saturday this year.

Steve Reid, manager of the Cumming SuperTarget on Market Place Boulevard, said anytime Halloween falls on “a night where school does not follow the next day, it seems to have a larger participation rate.”

“We have seen a lot more requests for party supplies,” he said. “I would think people are going to have ... larger Halloween parties.”

Both Reid and Beacham said popular costumes this year include heroes from recent movies, including “Star Wars,” and comic book characters like Batman and G.I. Joe.

Traditional costumes like princesses, witches, ghosts and goblins continue to be fan favorites.

For candy options, Reid said “chocolate is always going to be king,” though trick-or-treat bags may sport some alternatives this year.

“One of the items we’re seeing guests buy along with the candy are those less traditional things like goldfish, pretzels or potato chips in small bags, and they’re handing those out as well as candy,” he said. “I think people are just trying to ... have a variety of candy, rather than just the standard.”

With sister company Halloween USA not opening in Cumming this year, Party City is stocked with seasonal favorites.

The year-round costume store on Market Place Boulevard has the best Halloween stock it has had in years, said manager Karry Castellano.

“We have a really good assortment of fun costumes,” he said. “There is nothing but fun inside here. We all enjoy the kids that get excited and try on everything and play.

“We love kids and we love to see them in their costumes. It’s been very fun this year.”

For home décor, Castellano said the demand has been high for spider themes, from webs to giant lawn creatures. The store also sells pet costumes, which draws traffic from the pet supply store next door.

While there’s more demand for children’s costumes, those for grown-ups have also been strong sellers this year.

John Heavener, president of the Georgia Retail Association, attributed that to Halloween falling on a Saturday. But overall, he said, spending habits are unlikely to change this year, with more shoppers watching their wallets.

“That’s been this year’s retail story,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of people who are traditionally department or specialty store shoppers going more toward discount stores because of the state of the economy. It’ll be the same thing for Halloween as well. I’ll be surprised if it’s not.

“Having said that, the party stores that do these kinds of things are going to get their share of business.”

While projections are low, the national federation’s study was conducted in September.

“With [stock market surge] and a few other positive things that we’ve seen, it may not be as bad as we fear,” he said. “I think we may actually see some good signs, starting with Halloween.”