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Local firm among nation’s largest costume distributors
Mark Dermen, an employee of Mr. Costumes in south Forsyth, fills an order. The online distributor of costumes offers hundreds of varieties for babies, children and adults. - photo by Crystal Ledford

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Enchanted mermaid, Medieval warrior and zombie prom queen were just a few of the colorful items Dawne Lower and Cheryl Orr pulled last week while filling orders at a south Forsyth business.  

“This is my first day on the job and I think I’m really going to enjoy it,” said Orr, while picking out a Peter Pan costume from a shelf.

October is the start of the busy season for the company, which includes online distributors Mr. Costumes and Christmas Lights Etc.

Both ship a wide range of seasonal items from the 40,000-square-foot warehouse on Curie Drive, near the Fulton County line.

The company has about 40 full-time employees throughout the year, but that number grows to about 75 from September to January due to the additional seasonal workers needed in its call center and warehouse.

Christmas Lights Etc. is the flagship company, which was begun in 2000 by longtime Forsyth residents Chris Miller and William Hale.

Today it sells holiday-themed items such as lights, wreaths and Christmas trees primarily to large commercial groups such as Macy’s, Six Flags, Sea World, Disney World and Rockefeller Center. The tree there, which is a New York tradition, sports the company’s lights.

Mr. Costume was the newest addition to the company, which also includes online distributor Yard Envy. It specializes in garden décor, bird houses and feeders.

Since 2008, Mr. Costumes has been supplying people across the country with festive wear for parties and other fun occasions.  

Hillary Zody, marketing director, said Mr. Costumes is one of the largest online suppliers of costumes in the country. And, of course, the weeks leading up to Halloween are the busiest.

“It’s like $6.9 billion is expected to be spent on Halloween this year across the country,” Zody said. “That’s one day. Of course, that’s the costumes, the candy, the decorations, all of it.”

People tend to spend a good chunk of that money on costumes, however.

“Adults actually spend more money on costumes for themselves than for their kids,” Zody said. “People spend typically around $50 to $80 on a costume.”

Mr. Costumes’ adult products can run anywhere from “$25 or $30 all the way to a few hundred.” And when costumes make up your entire product line, it can make for some interesting sales reports.  

“Oktoberfest and lederhosen,” she said. “Never in a million years would that have even crossed my mind before I started working here, but we sell out of lederhosen every year. There are just so many groups that do Oktoberfests.”

Another line of products that sells well throughout the year is Renaissance-themed items.

“Renaissance fairs are huge and those are all year long across the country,” Zody said. “You know, we do a lot of the little fairy outfits for the kids and the beautiful princess outfits, all of that.”

While certain types of costumes sell all year, the bulk falls in September in October in preparation of Halloween.

According to Zody, certain outfits such as vampires, witches and pirates never go out of style. But many of product lines vary from year to year.

To get ready for the season, Mr. Costumes’ employees conduct in-depth research on current pop culture to try and figure out what themes will be trendy.

“We spend a lot of time looking at what movies and television shows are coming out that year to kind of get a feel for what we think is going to be big,” Zody said. “Is it going be a superhero movie or a certain horror theme? We have to try to make our best educated guesses and sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong.”

She said what becomes popular is sometimes unexpected.

“Like this year, the 1920s theme has been huge for adult costumes thanks to ‘The Great Gatsby’ movie,” she said. “That was a little bit of surprise.”

In the horror arena, anything zombie-related is hot this year, thanks to the popularity of TV shows such as “The Walking Dead” and the movies “World War Z” and “Warm Bodies.”

One of Mr. Costumes’ newest designs uses that theme. Called Digital Dudz iWound Zombie, it includes a plastic bib that lays over clothing and gives the appearance of bloody tissue. There’s a hole in which customers can place their smart phones. They can then download an app that will provide animation to look like flowing blood.

“We think that’s going to be big because it combines technology with apparel,” Zody said. “It’s just amazing and I can’t imagine what the next generation of this will be.”

While customers have fun picking out their Halloween outfits, don’t think Mr. Costumes’ employees miss out on the enjoyment. Zody said every year, all workers can pick out any costume they like to take home.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Zody said many of the employees wear those costumes to work on Halloween.

“Then after work, we all go out to dinner together in our costumes,” she said. “It’s great for camaraderie and morale. We always have a great time together.”  

There doesn’t seem to be much need for morale boosters as having fun is a big part of the work atmosphere.

“I’ve been marketing for years and I’ve sold everything from luxury hotels to toilets,” Zody said. “But I love this more than pretty much anything I’ve done before because our stuff is fun and people are happy about it.

“Whether it’s Christmas or spring or the Halloween stuff, they’re good seasons.”