Retailing can be scary at the best of times. But it has become especially intense during holidays or special dates when retailers depend on major increases in store traffic. One of the selling occasions that has always marked large volumes among children’s products is the lead-up to October 31ÑHalloween. KidScreen conducted an informal poll of some leading retailers to get their predictions on what they expect will be the hot products this year.
*Bill Miller, executive vice president, marketing and planning, FAO Schwarz
Miller expects that in the costume area, the Star Wars characters will be popular, particularly Princess Leia, ‘because it’s a girl’s costume and she’s a hero.’
Miller’s prediction is partly influenced by the fact that FAO Schwarz has ‘worked hard within our stores to create Star Wars boutiques [that are] providing a home for the costumes.’ The re-release of the film trilogy on video last month also helps matters.
Among costume sales, Miller ranks Star Wars as number one for kids age five and up. For younger children, Sesame Street and the Barney characters and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz are also going to do very well.
Regarding tie-ins with books, FAO Schwarz successfully dedicated an area to Goosebumps, and ‘in terms of presentation in our stores and unit sales, Goosebumps is leading the way,’ he says.
Overall, Miller says, ‘what we’re finding is that Halloween and the whole idea of play value and getting dressed up is becoming a year-round business for us. It tends to skew more to princess costumes, and the bigger the princess, the better.’
This year-round business, he estimates, has grown most significantly in the past two to three years.
*Chuck Miller, seasonal buyer,
Toys ‘R’ Us
‘The number one hot item this year is a limited edition of Tamagotchi costumes,’ says Miller. They come from Norben, a Canadian company. Up to early September, he would have guessed Batman was going to be a good seller, but, he says, ‘it’s not turning out to be doing much of anything in the license category. I would say most of the business is going to be done out of the generic costume category. There’s no real license that’s going to be super strong anywhere.’
Barbies are reliably strong and, ‘because the movie is coming out next spring,’ Barney remains hot. Superheroes from Marvel and DC Comics, like Spiderman and Batman and Superman (‘not so much the movie versions, but the comic-book characters’), are better than average, he says, ‘just for the simple reason that there is no really strong license out there that is really driving the business.’
He adds: ‘A company called Collegeville came out with a good costume for the NASCAR racing cars, and it will be particularly strong down south because they’re very big down through the southeast portion of the country and over into Texas.’
Miller says the Halloween business ‘is getting harder and harder to analyze [as to] whether you’re going in the right direction. Every year, I sit down for a good week with [the results of] the season and see where I made my mistakes.’
Is the competition tough out there? ‘It’s getting out of control.’
*Connie Van Epps, executive vice president, Imaginarium
Epps says her new company ‘is taking a very aggressive stance on Halloween. We’re being very bullish on it. It’s such an enormous opportunity, and I understand from what I hear [that] it’s the second-biggest holiday after Christmas.’
Normally, the focus for Imaginarium is kids under eight years of age, but with Halloween, the retailer is moving up to accommodate the 10-year-old market.
The hottest item, in Van Epps’ view, is the Tickle Me Elmo costume. ‘Within more upscale licenses, we’re carrying Lunette from Comfy Couch and Winnie the Pooh. Within the classics, we are carrying clown and bride costumes.’ She also sees ‘a retro opportunity’ with La Mendola’s American Bandstand costumes, and the same manufacturer’s mermaid costume.
In the video department, Imaginarium has stocked Ghostly Stories, Richard Scarry: The Best of Halloween and Peanuts and the Great Pumpkin.
The dress-up business is also big at Imaginarium. The store chain has launched a fashion area that is a dress-up area for girls and boys. ‘Dress-up, as a category, is a 365-day business,’ comments Van Epps.
*Jeff Burdelski, seasonal buyer, Ames Department Stores
Burdelski says that, in the area of costumes, the M&M candies costumes are particularly strong, as are Winnie the Pooh and Star Wars. Barbie, the old favorite, is also in with the leaders of the pack this year.