Halloween has become big business in Sonoma County, where shoppers are pouring into costume shops, pumpkin patches and grocery stores to prepare for the big night Saturday.
Americans will spend $6.9 billion this year on Halloween, according to projections by the National Retail Federation. The average person celebrating is expected to spend $74.34 on candy, decorations and costumes this year, down slightly from last year, according to an annual survey by the trade group.
Disguise the Limit, a costume shop in Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square, generates nearly a third of its profits during the Halloween shopping season, owner Suzanne McLennan said Monday. While business is down from pre-Internet days, people still spend $300 to $400 on beaded 1920s dresses or $100 on an authentic Darth Vader mask, she said.
The hottest costumes this year come straight from the movies, according to the National Retail Federation. Don’t be surprised if Luke Skywalker knocks on your door Friday night, or a golden-haired Queens Elsa steps up to your porch accompanied by a swarm of bug-eyed yellow Minions.
Pop culture influences local trends, too, according to McLennan and staffers at other costume shops. Superheroes like Batman and Captain America, Vikings inspired by popular television series and Disney princesses consistently garner the most sales at costume stores throughout Sonoma County. But, not surprisingly, some Sonoma County residents also opt for more creative do-it-yourself options.
Circus ringmasters, flappers and gangsters from the 1920s and anything “steampunk” are also popular with customers this year, McLennan said.
“Some people don’t want something pulled out of a bag,” she said.
On the final Monday afternoon before Halloween, the store in Old Redwood Square was bustling with costume seekers. Most customers hoped to spend between $40 and $50 on a costume for themselves or their kids. And some were branching out from the trends.
“We looked online for a costume, but it looked too much like a costume,” said Chris Tarantino, who is planning to be a gangster from the movie “A Clockwork Orange” with his girlfriend. Instead, they have visited thrift and costume stores to buy things separately.
“It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt,” Tarantino said.
Iliana Sanchez, a sales associate at Disguise the Limit, said store staffers started collecting ideas for costumes in July and placed their orders in August. They try to anticipate which movie characters will be popular, Sanchez said, and make sure to have a variety of options available — from full packaged costumes to accessories like horns, animal noses and wigs for people who want to bring their unique visions to life.
“There isn’t such a thing as an odd request anymore after working here for so long,” said Sanchez.
Customers shell out up to $300 on costumes at the Spirit Halloween Store in Petaluma, said Tristin Homen, a sales associate. The store has a whole section devoted to the “ever popular sexy costumes,” he said, as well as spandex body suits in different colors, skeletons, crash test dummies and characters from video games like “Assassin’s Creed,” which are popular with kids.
While Petaluma customers usually spend $30 to $60 on one costume at the Spirit Halloween store, they sometimes spend up to $1,000 on decorations like lights, lasers, fog machines and Styrofoam tombstones, Homen said.