LIHUE — Believe it or not, Halloween is big business.
While it pales in comparison to Christmas — where Americans are expected to dish out $600 billion, according to the National Retail Federation — October’s less holy holiday is an economic boon, too.
Try $8 billion.
That’s how much Americans are expected to spend on costumes, candy and party items — and Kauai costume shops are reaping some of those rewards.
“It’s always really good on Halloween,” said Natalee Kibby, a retailer at Lifestyles Consignment Boutique, the Lihue store that specializes in more risque costumes, on Wednesday. “It seems like this year everyone is buying costumes and accessories.”
What’s been popular?
Angel wings and wigs at the boutique, but anything zombie were hot items at other area stores. That’s in line with a national ranking that puts zombies as the second-most popular costume this year.
According to Forbes, which tracked sales this fall, the walking dead were only beat out by characters from the Disney movie Frozen, which they lumped all together. Ninjas finished third, followed by pirates and clowns.
“Zombie brides are really hot,” said Michele Molineaux, manager at the Kauai Humane Society thrift store.
Customers have mixed and matched items from the store for their costumes all month, she said. Wedding dresses have been the most popular.
“It’s always funny what sells and what doesn’t,” Molineaux said about hand-me-downs selling more than designed costumes. “The Lady Gaga Costume, I thought that would be a sure seller. It wasn’t.”
Across town, JoMarie Hernando’s daughter was looking for the finishing touches on her own zombie costume. Something that makes a dead person scarier, like a weapon.
“That’s what we’re going to look for,” Hernando said inside Kmart. “A mallet.”
Still, there is still plenty of demand for the traditionally made costume.
Leslie Lane-Schwarze, of Kapaa, recently started her own businesses designing one-of-a-kind, high quality costumes she sells on Craigslist. She has 25 costumes ready, and said she went out on a limb to start the business because she’s always loved sewing, as well as the Oct. 31 holiday.
“I just love dressing up and being another person,” she said of the muse for her new business. “It’s just fun.”
In Lihue, The Party Wonderland, which specializes in costumes, just celebrated its first anniversary.
The store caters to costumes that are more traditional, like superheroes, but also ones that are a bit on the different side, owner Tanya Hughes said.
Looking for an adult female cheerleading outfit that’s supposed to be worn by guys? Wonderland is the place for you.
“If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to wear inflatable breasts,” she said.
One thing’s clear. People put thought into their Halloween attire. Besides agencies tracking and ranking spending, national lists also rank costumes by coolness — and inappropriateness.
This year’s most inappropriate list consists of anything Ebola related, while dressing up as NFL running back Ray Rice, suspended from the league for domestic violence, might be the worst of all, according to Washington Post reporter turned blogger, Cindy Boren.
“Really, there have to be better options than pulling on a Rice jersey and dragging around a large doll by the hair,” she wrote this week.
And dress up isn’t just for people, either. Of the $8 billion Americans are expected to spend on Halloween, a record $370 million will go to costumes for pets, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s a whopping 40 percent more than what was spent on pets just two years ago.
And costumes aren’t just reserved for the scary, naturally.
Sanoe Burnham picked up some leggings at Lifestyles Consignment Boutique for her sexy teacher outfit she plans to wear on Oahu. She said she doesn’t usually celebrate Halloween, but wanted to dress up this year to let loose.
“I’m really not that sexy, so I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, do something I’m not,” she said. “Halloween is where you let loose.”