Area trick-or-treaters search for ‘unique’ finds at area costume retailers, businesses

Do-it-yourself scares and infamous horror icons are expected to dominate tri-state area streets this Halloween, alongside several more recent pop culture favorites.

With the holiday drawing closer, area retailers reported an uptick in demand for personalized, DIY-style costumes. While some consumers are driven by cost, local merchants say others just want a unique look.

“I’ve already helped one guy make a costume for (the movie) ‘Predator,’” said Lizzie Rodriguez, assistant manager of Spirit Halloween in Asbury Plaza in Dubuque. “It wasn’t something we had a packaged costume for, so we used a bunch of pieces from different sections to make a whole costume, like the cape from Batman and some of our fake turtle skeletons for the bones.”

Rodriguez added that easily-adapted pieces such as animal ears, horror movie masks and fake blood also have been popular this year, alongside the store’s “color wall” that includes various pieces that can be mixed and matched with different costumes.

Kids are more likely to select the pre-packaged costumes than adults, she added, with some popular youth choices including Barbie, Bluey and Ninja Turtles.

“Five Nights at Freddy’s (video game characters) is another really popular one with the kids right now,” Rodriguez remarked. “We’ve actually sold out of a few of those.”

Halloween spending is expected to hit an all-time high this year at an estimated $12.2 billion nationwide, according to National Retail Federation. Of that, roughly 33% is expected to be spent on costumes.

Many national favorites mirror local trends, with frontrunners including perennial favorites such as witches, vampires and ghosts. According to Google Trends data, the most popular costume search in the Dubuque area is “dinosaur,” which ranks third in searches nationwide.

Barbie and Spider-Man costumes also picked up steam this year, bolstered by the respective releases of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Sony Pictures’ “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

An estimated 1.8 million U.S. adults plan to dress up as Barbie, according to National Retail Federation data, with many local residents expected to jump on the plastic bandwagon.

“We’ve already had a few girl groups come in looking for our pink clothing, or the latex and the heels,” said Jaydn Giellis, supervisor at Stuff Etc. “And we’ve seen a few Barbie and Ken couples costumes, too.”

The Dubuque consignment store offers pre-packaged costumes for kids, as well as a variety of clothing and accessories that can be incorporated into homemade ensembles.

The more DIY-style costumes are particularly popular with teens, Giellis said, as well as larger friend groups or couples looking for coordinated costumes.

At Bins of Treasure Liquidation in Dyersville, Iowa, co-owner Amanda Rankins also said a regular stream of people has come in looking for costumes.

Most of the sales so far have been to adult customers looking for classic costumes, she said, or those in the style of various animated film characters.

“Since we’re a liquidation store, we always get some of the prior season’s costumes versus the most recent,” Rankins said. “That means we have some pieces everyone else doesn’t have this year, and people can find something a little more unique.”

Demand for Halloween décor is similarly robust. This year alone, National Retail Federation expects U.S. consumers will spend roughly $3.9 billion on decorations to fill their lawns with fake tombstones or staged skeletons.

At the Elizabeth’s Grand Antique Company in Elizabeth, Ill., cashier Sharilyn Angell said fabric pumpkins, witches’ brooms and scarecrows have been selling “like hotcakes.” On Monday, one customer walked away with a 6-foot mummy.

The antique company includes displays from a variety of local vendors, Angell said, meaning there is something for everyone nestled among the shelves. And the aged feeling of some of the pieces can lend a certain spooky feeling to a Halloween display.

“We’ve had some people come in looking for old doll heads, and those are pretty creepy,” she said. “We have one booth in particular that specializes in those weird, quirky things like a pen made out of (plastic) bones or props from ‘The Shining.’”

Rodriguez said décor sales also have seen early success at Spirit Halloween. A jumping spider decoration and light-up spider webs have been fan favorites, alongside classics such as scythes and skeletons.

“It’s been kind of a nostalgia year for people,” she said. “A lot of people are going back to the classics.”