“Some small towns die a natural death. Some are murdered.” — Reggie Bannister, Phantasm II
I'm a fairly big horror movie fan. In fact, I have a tattoo of Michael Myers (the dead-eyed, seemingly unstoppable force in the Halloween movie series). And, not surprisingly, I watched my share of horror flicks during this past Halloween season.
One vehicle that’s used frequently in the horror genre (and others as well) is the trick of convincing the viewer that the killer is one person, when in fact, it is someone else entirely—and probably, someone you couldn’t believe, providing that shocking twist.
The best example of this is Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. For almost the entirety of the acclaimed 1960 film, the viewer is convinced the evil antagonist is “Norma” Bates, the mother of the soft-spoken main character Norman Bates (played flawlessly by Anthony Perkins). In its climactic scene, the viewer finds out that the killer is, in fact, Norman Bates, dressed up as his mother (who he also murdered—sorry for the spoiler, but if you haven’t watched Psycho in the past 50-plus years, I doubt you were going to get around to it anytime soon).
Ok, I’ll get to my point. In early November, I sent out an email questionnaire to STOREROTICA readers; specifically, store owners. At first, the questions were a tad “vanilla”; how successful was your Halloween sales holiday, what costumes sold best, etc. The response? Nada.
Then I rephrased the question: Is Halloween dead in adult retail? That struck a chord. I could hardly keep up with the responses as they poured in. And the answer was, unequivocally, “Yes—Halloween is dead in adult retail!” (See the full story on pages 58 and 60 of the upcoming December issue of STOREROTICA).
The logical follow-up question is, what, or who, killed it? Wasn’t it just five years ago, maybe 10, that Halloween was considered the number-one (or next to Valentine’s Day, number two) sales holiday in adult retail?
The all-too-obvious answer—the Norma Bates, if you will—is Spirit and other Halloween stores that “pop up” in September in strip malls across the U.S., and usurp the customers that previously had shopped in adult stores for “sexy” costumes. (Again, see the story in the upcoming issue for more detail on this subject).
But what I want to address here is the Norman Bates—the real killer. And the real killer(s) of Halloween as a vital sales holiday in adult retail are the intimate apparel manufacturers.
They are the ones that began selling their pre-packaged costumes to Spirit and other similar stores for less than what they were selling those same costumes to adult stores for. They are the ones who kept the costumes at the same price point, yet in some cases, lowered the actual quality of the product (to make a greater profit, no doubt). And the final kick in the pants is, they are the ones who, according to store owners, sell those costumes to Spirit on consignment (feel free to return what you don’t sell), yet will not accept returns from boutique and adult store owners.
“The manufacturers—Leg Avenue, etc.—sold us out,” says Adrienne Hunt of Satin and Lace in Danbury, Connecticut. “They sell to Spirit, Party Depot, etc, and we small boutiques can’t compete. We support (the manufacturers) all year and they screw us over at Halloween now!”
Exactly right, Adrienne. You, the adult store owner, relied on Halloween not just as a profitable sales holiday for costumes and accessories, but in many cases, those shoppers were new customers, or ones that rarely enter adult stores. This was your opportunity to turn these curious one-time shoppers into regular customers, and there’s no doubt that this scenario transpired regularly in stores across the country. That’s why, not surprisingly, store owners who responded to our poll were so emphatic and, in some cases, very angry with the “death” of Halloween costume sales in their stores.
“We felt very slighted by Forplay’s game of selling retail at 20% off the suggested retail,” says Glenn of the Fetish Factory in Fort Lauderdale, FL. “We decided to beat them at their game and liquidated the Forplay at just under their price they were giving it away online. It is games like that which will make their resellers turn away from them in the future.”
So let me get this straight: You, the intimate apparel manufacturers, rely heavily on the brick-and-mortar stores to sell your product every day, every month of the year. Without them, where would you be? And yet, you’re willing to sell your souls and leave these valued out in the cold for what, a few extra bucks in September and October? Shame on you.
Not surprisingly, there are a few stores who’ve had enough.
“I sold my lingerie and boxes of Halloween items at a loss and said goodbye to it all,” says Kim Williams of the Wild Kingdom store in Kelowna, British Columbia (Canada), noting that she’s been in the business for 38 years. “People trying on 12 or more and walking out with nothing. It takes a lot of time and hard work to sell a Halloween costume with little profit. I am glad that I don’t have to deal with the crazy madness of Halloween costumes anymore.”
Halloween in adult retail did not die a natural death, it was murdered. Rest in peace. — by Dave Manack