While many retail operations depend on the Christmas shopping season to ensure profitability, Becky Hoover, owner of Party Impressions, said Halloween has become the most important shopping season for her store.
"Thirteen years ago when I opened Party Impressions, neon tutus, leg warmers, and purple wigs were not part of the traditional party ware line of business," she said. "Now, we have over 7,000 costumes in stock and thousands of accessories. We are the place to bring your fantasy character to life, or just make your friends and family roar with laughter when you don those old school hip hop pants."
Hoover said she expects to sell more than 1,000 costumes this Halloween season, and she attributes her success to the inventory she carries and to her staff.
"Over the last few years, the quality and workmanship of the costumes is getting better and better," she said. "We have always tried to carry a higher quality costume than found elsewhere locally, but still keep the price point affordable. We also try to help personally 'fit' every customer so that they feel good about their purchase and how they look."
The person in charge of costume fitting at Party Impressions is Nan Ready. She has been working for Hoover for the last several years during the six weeks prior to Halloween.
"I have been doing this for so long that I can spot what is going to work for somebody, and what is not," she said. "I have even seen a trend that started a couple of years ago. Three or four college girls will come in together and buy one costume to share. They will each try it on, and then split the cost. Interestingly, they will turn around and sell it the next year to another group of girls."
Hoover said they are able to do this because the quality of the costumes has improved so much.
"I am truly amazed at what is being made today," she said. "Honestly, some of these costumes you could wear to the prom practically. They definitely hold up."
Hoover said the biggest trend that she has seen in the last year or two is a desire by her male customers to "look good" in their costumes.
"For years, the guys just wanted to be funny, but no more," she said. "Now, they want to look good as well, and be a real character. While a woman may dream of being a beautiful Egyptian goddess married to his royal highness, a guy may want to invoke the super hero powers of the muscled chested Batman, be a Top Gun pilot, or enjoy the notoriety of an old west gun slinger."
Georgia Southern student Scott Fraser came to Party Impressions because he had been unable to find a costume that he wanted when he went shopping in Savannah.
"My girlfriend is having a Halloween party, and we really wanted to try and find costumes that went together as a couple," he said. "There are so many more choices in here now since they moved to this larger location. I didn't realize how much they really had."
Ready said another trend that she has seen is the customer's interest in accessorizing their costumes.
"They will have sort of a basic outfit of their own, and then they come in here and buy anything from wigs and moustaches to hats and swords," she said. "You name it. It is truly amazing what we carry now. I have done this for so long that I can tell you exactly what you need to make an outfit 'pop'."
Hoover said the move from her downtown location on West Main Street added another 2,000 square feet to her store.
"We have stayed true to our initial client base, particularly in the baking area," she said. "Our costumes are tremendously important. This is just a fun time of year. Come shop locally. I think you will love what we have in stock."