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10/24/2004

A monster boost for shops

By Abbe Smith
The Daily Times-Call

Brandon and Austin Barton bravely cruised the monster-lined aisles of Party America on Tuesday in a big yellow shopping cart.

The boys, ages 4 and 2 respectively, were on the hunt for the perfect Halloween costume.

“Cowboy!” Brandon shouted, followed by a nod of agreement from his brother.

Mom Kristyn Barton pushed past the monsters and back toward the costumes.

“I don’t think we’re going to get out of here without decorations,” Barton added as she maneuvered her cart around black cauldrons and plastic skeletons.

That’s what Longmont store manager Carey Horton likes to hear.

Halloween is getting bigger every year, according to Horton, and with the holiday falling on a Sunday this year, local businesses are looking forward to a long Halloweekend.

The extension has adults planning to party it up this year, Horton said.

Her biggest sellers so far are skeletal dinnerware and serving dishes, spooky decorations, and life-size witches and scary clowns.

A vibrating butler wearing a party hat and a red corsage holds a silver tray with two martini glasses precariously perched on top.

For $299.99, it’s yours.

“It just keeps growing and growing,” Horton said of the holiday.

Party America on Hover Street in Longmont is attempting to heed the call with 241 square feet of Halloween items this year.

It joins the local retail race to cash in on the estimated $3 billion that the National Retail Federation expects Americans to to spend on Halloween items this year.

Retail giant Wal-Mart has a Halloween headquarters of its own in Longmont.

The store offers six counters of decorations and costumes and two counters of candy intended to make it into trick-or-treat bags next weekend.

“Halloween is second to Christmas,” assistant manager J.C. Cook said Thursday. He estimated that the fall holiday even exceeded Easter and Valentine’s Day for sales.

Cook cited a “party mentality” associated with Halloween that gives it a retail boost.

“The people just get a kick out of it,” he said.

Even with competitors like Wal-Mart, there’s enough holiday hullabaloo to keep smaller businesses like Horton’s sailing high this time of year. She has several guesses as to why that is.

“Longmont is growing, too, so new people are adding to their homes,” Horton said.

The costume rush is yet to come.

“Us adults always wait until the last minute to shop for costumes,” she said.

The Ritz in Boulder, however, has seen more of a costume crowd so far this year.

“It’s our Christmas!” owner Susan Nutting said by phone Tuesday. She goes from eight employees to 48 during Halloween time.

Customers from as far away as Aspen, Vail and even Wyoming make the trip to browse the Ritz’s racks of Hare Krishna outfits, superhero gear and pimp costumes, the latter being a popular draw for the college-age population.

Disco funk themes and ’80s Madonna themes are big hits, too. There’s also the usual suspects: pirates, punk rockers and flappers.

“With the election year, we’re seeing a lot of political costumes,” Nutting said. “Bush and Kerry.”

Stepping out of reality and into a costume, whether as a princess or a pimp, is what’s so alluring about the holiday, according to Nutting.

The store owner is in her element this time of year.

“People just love it,” she said.

Abbe Smith can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 389, or by e-mail at asmith@times-call.com.