Halloween sales in N.O. going strong as costumes fly off shelves

Halloween sales in N.O. going strong as costumes fly off shelves

Richard A. Webster

In the days leading up to Halloween before Hurricane Katrina, a security guard stood outside the door of Uptown Costume and Dancewear while lines of anxious customers stretched two blocks down Magazine Street waiting to be ushered inside.

“But rules are rules,” the guard would say. “Only 20 in at a time.”

Inside, the lucky few clutch bat wings and corsets and mini- dress nurse uniforms while waiting in an hour-long line to reach the register.

Employee Webbie Rhodes said when Halloween is over, Uptown Costume and Dancewear usually looks like most stores did following the storm – looted. This year is no different.

“People are just buying, buying, buying everything,” Rhodes said. “Pirates and wood fairies are big this year. And they’re buying corsets and can-can skirts up a storm. We do a lot of sexy versions of everything, from Snow White to Alice in Wonderland. Those are really big.”

Uptown Costume opened shortly before Halloween last year and the lines were out the door. This year’s pre-Halloween rush started three weeks ago and has been steady ever since.

“People wonder why the hell we do this in New Orleans and it amuses me,” Rhodes said. “Some people think we’d be hesitant to celebrate anything, but this is our industry, tourism, and if we didn’t do it they would say we were done down here. Yes, it is a party town and it keeps the bars open and the hotels going.”

As Halloween weekend nears, Rhodes expects the crowds to be the same size as they have for the past decade.

“For the last five days we’ll have three registers going and an hour wait in line just to pay.”

Liz LaMartina, owners of Humbug Costumes Inc. in Kenner, scrambled to reopen her store three weeks after Katrina. She had no idea what business was going to be like.

“I was a nervous wreck because I bought so much stock because I had lost so much,” LaMartina said. “We had a foot and a half of water in here.”

It was a make-or-break moment for Humbug and the costume-crazed people of New Orleans came through, LaMartina said.

“We did really well. I feel like everybody wanted to forget about Hurricane Katrina and enjoy themselves,” she said.

This year, LaMartina stuffed her shelves with costumes, masks and wigs and once again they are flying off the shelves.

“This year I overbought because I’m trying to make up. I’m just stocked from ceiling to wall, everything you can think of,” LaMartina said. “But we were packed the whole weekend. I’m busier than normal and I can’t even get more stock because all the supply companies are sold out.”

At Party City in Kenner, manager Angela Carriere said people started pouring into her store at the end of August. The most popular costumes include the Gold Digger and Mile High Stewardess for the ladies, the Pimp for the men and pirates and superheroes for the children.

By the end of October, Carriere said it will look like a bomb went off in her store.

“It’s like they’re dropping people off by the busload. We’re doing outstanding business this year, even more so than last year. People aren’t even second-guessing whether we should be celebrating Halloween this year. They just want to get some normalcy in their lives.”

Copyright 2006 Dolan Media Newswires

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