For fans of Halloween, working out what to wear can often be the highest stakes decision. The ideal is a low-effort, high-reward costume, which could veer into the grotesque, the witty, and the culturally relevant… or preferably, all three. And, in 2023, it seems people are doubling down on dressing up: a record 69% of people are planning to buy costumes this Halloween. But, if Costco cleans up on candy, it’s Amazon that thrives in the costume department, as 44% reportedly head to the online giant for their costume needs first, with just 10% going to specialty retailers.
The ghost model
One of the most interesting business models is the enigmatic seasonal pop-up Spirit Halloween — which typically only operates for 2-3 months of the year — temporarily inhabiting large unused retail spaces wherever they can find them, in order to shift as much Halloween merch as possible in just a few weeks.
And, someone’s job, somewhere, is to crunch social data, and the latest consumer trends, to figure out how many ghost, ghoul, Barbie or Batman costumes they need to stock up on ahead of time — with supply chains reacting quickly to whatever pop culture costumes could be cashed in on.
Despite SAG-AFTRA telling members to refrain from dressing up as characters from struck studios amid the Hollywood strikes. The general public, of course, has no such restrictions, and typically can’t get enough of cultural cosplay.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Google data reveals that October has seen a surge in searches for costumes related to the Barbenheimer and Super Mario Bros., the summer box office phenomena — in fact, the NRF predicts that Barbie will be the 3rd most popular adult and 7th most popular child’s costume this year. Of course, Barbie- and Mario-themed attire have been staples of Halloween's past. Oppenheimer… not so much.
Costume hype tends to peak alongside blockbuster movie or series releases. But, if you want to know if your characters made a big impact culturally, wait 10 years — if people are still dressing up as them every year, you did something special.