Washington

Supply chain crisis fuels Halloween costume shortage, creative alternatives

The world’s leading industry source of Halloween costumes is suggesting alternatives for parents as stores across the United States run out of inventory less than two weeks before the Oct. 31 holiday amid an ongoing supply chain crisis.

The nonprofit Halloween & Costume Association (HCA), a U.S.-based trade group that represents more than 30 costume companies with more than $3 billion in cumulative sales, reports that the “Halloween costume crisis of 2021” already has caused vendors nationwide to run out of the most coveted costumes.

“We’re seeing mass out-of-stocks in some of the largest U.S. retailers like Target, more than we’ve seen in a very long time,” HCA Chairman Gregor Lawson told The Washington Times. “Several of our members have stock sitting on boats because of the backlog of vessels. President Biden has encouraged ports to clear that backlog, but it’s not going to be done in time.”

Mr. Lawson said the shortage has emerged as a result of suppliers underestimating their costume orders in January and February, as well as delays in getting goods from China fast enough to meet the rising demand for Halloween costumes.

“This year, almost out of the blue, we’ve got the biggest Halloween in history that will sell $10.4 billion of related goods in the United States,” he said. “When we started ordering back in January, we didn’t know where COVID would be, but a lot of stores erred on the safe side of how much stock to buy.”

He added that “Squid Game,” a South Korean horror series that debuted Sept. 17 on Netflix, “surprised the whole industry” by shooting to the top of this year’s list of most popular costumes.

“It’s very challenging to throw that one together. That is the costume that there’s massive demand for, but sadly no one is able to fulfill,” said Mr. Lawson, who co-founded the HCA member company MorphCostumes in Edinburgh, Scotland.

With many of the most popular costumes, wigs and masks already sold out online and in stores across the country, the HCA has launched an “Ideas and Inspiration” web page at Halloween2021.org to provide alternative costume ideas for what it estimates will be “millions of shoppers” who get an unpleasant surprise when they try to purchase a costume at the last minute.

The alternatives include purchasing group and couples costumes, often easier to find or piece together since most costumes sell as singles; getting the same types “but different” costumes to create a family theme; trying a different character or time period in the genre of one’s choice; and building a do-it-yourself costume out of “a few everyday items, and a cauldron full of creativity.”

Group costume ideas include “Wakanda Forever — Black Panther,” and couples ideas include “You’re the one that I want — Danny Zuko and Sandra Dee.”

Suggestions for “the same but different” costumes include everyone dressing as a ghost, while costume-specific ideas include dressing as a particular witch: the Sanderson Sisters of “Hocus Pocus,” the Wicked Witch of the West, Glinda the Good Witch, Hermione of “Harry Potter” and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

On the topic of witches, Mr. Lawson said “there’s always somebody selling witches, but a lot of the most popular witches have already sold out.”

The HCA’s ideas for a DIY costume include purchasing a simple Bernie Sanders rubber mask for $14.99 on Amazon and accessorizing it: “Embrace the popularity of pop culture costumes this year and recreate the iconic Bernie Sanders meme. Just grab some mittens, a puffy coat and don’t forget the folding chair!”

Mr. Lawson said the goal of the suggestions is to “eliminate the panic” that may result from last-minute shoppers realizing that this year’s most coveted costumes are no longer available.

“The vast majority of people in our membership are just people who love Halloween and costumes; this is our favorite time of year,” he said. “We know what it feels like when you have a late party invitation and you suddenly can’t find the costume you want.”

The HCA also is recommending an at-home Halloween dance challenge with a music video that it has created with several TikTok stars.

Google Trends indicates that this year’s five most popular costumes in descending order of online search hits are “Squid Game,” witches, princesses, Cruella de Vil and dinosaurs.

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