It’s not business as usual for Party World in Baxter.
“I’ve been very worried. As a business owner, it’s certainly not a time that you actually sleep at night because that’s just not a possibility,” co-owner Kelli Mankowski said of doing business during the coronavirus pandemic and high unemployment rates.
Halloween is usually a frightfully good time for the retailer specializing in celebrations. But Mankowski wondered if the October surprise of snow, coupled with rising COVID-19 cases, may cause foot traffic to slow.
“But the first couple weeks of October were stronger. The numbers there, were about equal to what it was last year, so I was very pleasantly surprised at that,” Mankowski said. “This last week, of course, with the snow and all of that kind of thing, it’s certainly been a little bit slower.”
Mankowski has also had to face troublesome supply chain disruptions, with many of the items that she carries at Party World coming from China where the products are made.
“We had to place our orders in February and March … kind of that area right when COVID hit the hardest and so it was a matter of ‘What do we do? Will there be a Halloween? What are we thinking?’ but we did put our orders in,” Mankowski said.
Mankowski said it was her impression based on the deliveries she has been receiving that there were fewer Chinese products this season than in years past to offer customers.
“We haven’t gotten everything we ordered, and a lot of it is, I believe, dependent on the fact that the world was shut down and the manufacturing shut down and all of that kind of thing,” Mankowski said.
Mankowski said Party World is still receiving deliveries of shipments, however, and a variety of them for those shopping for Halloween.
“As far as Halloween goes, we have wigs and facial hair and weapons and gallons of blood and face paints and prosthetics and adult costumes, accessories, some shoes, boas — just a little bit of everything,” Mankowski said.
Party World on Edgewood Drive carries a wide variety of costumes year-round for men and women and not just for Halloween but for other occasions such as Easter or Christmas.
“We do not do a lot of kids’ costumes. Target, Walmart and Costo seem to do better with that — you know the parents are there and the kids see them, so they grab them up there — so kids’ costumes aren’t as big of a seller for us,” Mankowski said.
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Based on Googles’ Frightgeist list of top searches for Halloween costumes.
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More than 50% of American families plan to stay in this year and watch a scary movie instead of trick-or-treating, according to a survey by chocolate company See’s Candies.
“The sales for the first couple weeks of October have been, like I said, equal to what they were last year, so that’s been very encouraging,” Mankowski said.
Halloween remains a popular holiday for brave souls — in a world where social distancing is encouraged to slow the spread of the virus — as do places like Party World that cater to them.
“We do concentrate more so on the adult costumes and then all of the extra little accessories that make the costume perfect — give it that little added touch, you know — like a corncob pipe or a tiara — those types of things,” Mankowski said.
Party World also rents costumes. Rental rates vary from $25 to $40 depending upon the specific costume, so interested parties are encouraged to contact the Baxter retailer for exact details.
“Every year — no matter if there’s COVID or not — every year, the first part of October, is what we call the ‘tire-kicking season’ where everybody comes in and they look and see what they want to be and then they come back … and then usually it’s the last week of October when the sales actually happen,” Mankowski said.
“Flappers and gangsters costumes are always popular — always — it doesn’t matter. Hands down, they always sell the most,” she added. “The one theme that we’ve been seeing a lot of this year are the Trump wigs. … The Trump wigs are definitely being asked for quite a bit.”
The See’s Candies survey found 70% of parents responding believed there will be a return to normal spooky traditions for Halloween 2021.
The Salvation Army Thrift Store at Norwood and South Sixth streets in Brainerd also gets a fair share of those looking to come up with their own Halloween costume.
“They come in and they look for different ideas for a costume if they’re looking for a particular piece, you know, for that outfit that they’re missing, or we have the used costumes that we sell as well,“ said Shawna Simmons, store manager.
The faith-based nonprofit receives donations, such as gently-used clothing, according to Simmons, and is a place where shoppers can find deals on clothing, furniture, household goods, sporting equipment, books, electronics and more.
“A lot of them wait until the last minute, you know, to find that last-minute outfit — when the retail stores are out of costumes — before they go out and try to find any costumes. And I think that’s when a lot of people come to us,” Simmons said.
Affordability and availability of Halloween costumes at retail stores are not the only factors. Some prefer to dream up their own costumes assembled from what apparel or accessories they can find at second-hand stores such as The Salvation Army Thrift Store.
“If they want to come up with their own ideas, they’ll pick out, you know, those particular items, clothing items, or they’ll go through the (used) costumes and get those as well because we sell those pretty much pretty cheap,” Simmons said.
Proceeds from these sales at The Salvation Army Thrift Store fund programs that help more than 216,000 people annually, according to The Salvation Army website, but often people also go there to discover fun and affordable items to purchase.
“I know in years past that I’ve had people come in for like a scarecrow costume, so they were looking for the overalls, the flannel or a straw hat — different things like that,” Simmons said. “Right now, we have random masks, wings — and we even have an elephant head.
“Costumes change every year, so it’s kind of hard to determine exactly what people are looking for.”