Q&A with Lynn Abdelnour, President
Ted Vayos, BODY: Describe your store.
Lynn Abdelnour: We opened our store in an upscale outdoor mall located in Rancho Mirage, CA which is a city centrally located in the Palm Springs area. This was the 2nd year in a row at this location and this mall targets customers enjoying late afternoon/evening dining, movies and entertainment. Our store hours were 11am-9pm with the store staying open until 10 or 11pm as Halloween neared. Our customers included locals as well as tourists and convention attendees as there were many hotels surrounding us. Customers were serious buyers in this situation as opposed to other mall locations we had in the past. Our store was required to appear as a year-round store with professional store front displays, permanent lit-up outdoor signage and exciting merchandising. We featured everything a Halloween Store could sell including costumes for Newborns to Adult, Pet Costumes, Makeup, Wigs, Hosiery, Shoes, Props, Decor and Accessories.
Ted: What makes your store special?
Lynn: We pride ourselves as being the locally-owned Halloween store and thank our customers for supporting “the Local Halloween Store”. We set our store up to look like a permanent store. Our staff returns each year and we are all “Moms” who can handle most anything. We provide the best customer service and customers realize our knowledge is extremely helpful when trying to shop in a “chaotic” store such as a Halloween store. Our store is clean, organized, and costumes are hung on racks for customers to see and feel. We have a huge dressing room area with 6 dressing rooms equipped with mirrors. We also have the costume wall panels up in the appropriate sections of the store so customers can look at the walls for costumes available out on the floor. Best of both worlds!
Ted: What do you look for in a brand?
Lynn: What is important to me in a costume brand is great fit, updated styles, quality of fabric used, trims and accessories used, sizing availability and packaging including appropriate models with professional photography. California Costumes earns our vote for an outstanding review in all of these areas. Newer lines introduced in our store recently have been Lip Service, Starline, Just Pretend & Tinsley Transfers.
Companies can improve in the costume industry by offering sizing options (XS-XL for women S-XXL for men), using fabrics that do not snag, replacing open backs with either zippers or velcro closures, avoid using cheap zippers, use professional models and photographers to use for packaging (extremely important for wall panel and internet use), create more Teen costumes for Girls and Boys. The girls’ teen photography needs to be “appropriate” to make the teens happy as well as their parents!.....create a true NEWBORN costume line ie: call it “Newborn” and make them for a baby that weighs less than 8 pounds, continue to expand on the plus sizing for men and women (esp. women) and offer sizing up to 4X including somewhat sexy styles, offer long pretty princess dresses for women.
Ted: What are the latest trends?
Lynn: We are in a warm climate so our customers can get away with wearing as little as they would like! 2013 proved to be a popular season for catsuits, any and all styles from all companies. Most popular was the Deadly Ninja and Pretty Paratrooper from Leg Avenue. Day of the Dead was a popular category for both men & women with Lip Services’ costumes selling out quickly. There was a definite trend in women wanting to create their own costumes using Tutus, kits and accessories from Leg Avenue, Dreamgirl & Forum. Costumes that were “Semi-Sexy” seemed to be more desirable than ever as opposed to “Sexy” for the women with great bodies. Families in our area wanted to dress as a “theme” and were very creative. Morphsuits were a huge success for boys with Slenderman being the #1 style. Superhero Morphsuits for men were popular. There was a definite increase in military/SWAT/Firemen costumes for men.
Ted: Describe your price points and size ranges.
Lynn: Price points for kids’ costumes are from $9.99 to $29.99 with sizes from Newborn to XL
Adult costumes average between $29.99 to $59.99 with sizes ranging from XS to 4X.
Ted: What is your typical or
average customer size?
Lynn: The most popular womens’ size is medium and the most popular mens’ size is large.
Ted: What does the average customer spend per visit to your store?
Lynn: Women will spend about $90 on their costumes and men will spend about $50.
Ted: Describe your customer.
Lynn: Our customer base is vast but, when we choose our advertising we gear towards the “Mom” audience. They are the ones to bring the kids in the store to get their costumes first and then they return alone or with their spouse or boyfriend to choose their costumes. Moms between the ages of 30-48. We choose radio stations geared to the moms, ages 20-30 and then adults who love to listen to the current country western music so that it includes men.
Ted: What has impacted your costume business the most this year?
Lynn: The two main Halloween chain businesses have impacted our store the most as they entered in to my area about 5 years ago. Their TV advertising campaigns are powerful as well as their email campaigns. We will honor a competitors’ coupon if they mistake us for another store. Customers have assumed Target and Walmart have lower prices than independent stores such as ours until this year when we heard that Targets prices were higher than ours. However, we all know the more places there are to purchase Halloween costumes and accessories it impacts us. The internet affected our store in the kids’ category this year more than ever. We believe it is the “convenience” of purchasing exactly what the kids are asking for from a home computer. We also need to remind ourselves that the economy is still affecting customers’ spending. Parents continue to want to make their kids happy and excited for Halloween but heard from many customers that they are on the “every other year plan” with kids getting new costumes every other year and using their creativity on the other years. We believe as long as we continue to provide the best in knowledge, customer service and a store that customers walk in to and say “WOW!!! This store is so much better!!!” we will survive.