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Novelty businesses hope to scare up good sales

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Posted: Sunday, October 14, 2012 4:30 am | Updated: 9:02 pm, Sat Aug 3, 2013.

Halloween means different things to different people.

But for people in the novelty business, it might as well be Christmas. If a party- or costumed-based business cannot make a killing during the Halloween season, the rest of its fiscal year is destined to be a horror story.

Local businesses have to compete with corporate entities that swoop into town and rent space to set up temporary Halloween stores. And online sales make it increasingly difficult to compete. But local party- and holiday-related businesses are proving there is more than one way to carve a pumpkin.

Halloween Bootique opened in an empty space in a strip mall on Sept. 28. According to store manager Melinda Taylor, the store is owned by a company called General Novelty, more commonly known as Hallmark Gold.

“They go to areas that currently have Hallmark stores and find vacant buildings, mall space or whatever it may be to lease space for the Halloween season,” said Taylor, who has worked in General Novelty Halloween stores for the last 10 years. “This is only our second year in Cove.”

Taylor said a typical store can bring in between $20,000 and $100,000 in the two months that it is open. She estimated the Bootique in Cove falls somewhere in between. But so far this year, Taylor said her location is falling short.

“It could be because we opened later this year and people do not realize we are open,” she said.

Taylor said online sales are a huge obstacle. This year, General Novelty has 59 stores across the country. Taylor said that is far lower than usual and could be a reflection of the increased competition.

“The biggest challenge is we are competing with online sales,” she said. “That may be why we’re getting fewer stores each year.”

There is a silver lining to this problem, Taylor said.

“In another week, people won’t be ordering online; they’ll be running to the stores because they waited too long,” she said. “We will get busy starting this weekend. The bomb will go off this weekend, and then from here on out, it just gets faster and faster.”

‘All-Halloween store’

Major corporations are not the only businesses invested in the Halloween season. Let’s Party Party Supplies in Killeen is one of the few local stores that sells Halloween gear all year.

Store owner Alex Jarbouh is always looking for new ways to capitalize on the holiday. This year marks the second year he has opened up a second location in the Killeen Mall devoted to Halloween.

“When you have an all Halloween store, you can expand and get that Halloween spirit in the store,” Jarbouh said. “It allows us to provide more variety.”

It is also a great way to make more money.

“Every year we try and do a temporary store,” he said. “A temporary store usually does over $100,000. That is sales, not profits.”

Jarbouh said meticulous planning and a connection to the local community are the only way he is able to compete with corporate competition.

“They are always hard to compete with, especially when trying to find a location to rent,” he said. “But we’ve been in this market for several years. Having an established relationship with our customer and the business community helps us find the locations. Also, we order our inventory for Halloween in January. Since we are prepared, we can offer competitive pricing.”

Good prices

Pricing is why the Goodwill on Stan Schlueter in Killeen is able to draw in a lot of new customers around this time of year.

Christina Taylor, director of marketing and communications at Heart of Texas Goodwill Industries, said that is why the store devotes so much time and space to displaying their Halloween options.

“Goodwill stores offer unlimited possibilities for the budget-conscious consumer,” she said. “With the economy still in recovery mode, people don’t want to pay full price for costumes. And why should they when they can find material here to make a one-of-a-kind costume for a fraction of the cost.”

Taylor said Halloween allows Goodwill to fish for customers with a wider net.

“We see an increase in consumer we don’t normally see throughout the year,” Taylor said. “The idea is to make people who only think about us around Halloween think of us throughout the year.”

“The money from every purchase, whether it is during Halloween or not, goes toward helping people develop job skills to work in one of our stores or elsewhere,” she added.

Competitors don’t spook business owner

Shana Nagel, owner of Party-N-Jump in Copperas Cove, is not worried about any of the competition. She doesn’t worry about the Internet because she thinks people prefer to see, feel and try on costumes before making a purchase. And she believes the connection she has made with her customers over the years trumps anything corporate operations have to offer.

“We have families who make picking out their costume at our store a family event year after year,” Nagel said. “It is a tradition for some people.”

Jarbouh shared Nagel’s sentiments. He said being around all year helps him promote his Halloween store, and the knowledge that he will still be around when the Holiday passes engenders loyal customers.

“People know if they throw a party for any occasion, we will be here to help them,” he said. “We’ve been in this center for six years. If we were only open for two months, it would be hard to form those relationships.”

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