Halloween retailers scaring up business

Mr. Pumpkin Head at the Big Stuff Booth at the Halloween Costume and Party Show in Las Vegas in March 2009.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Forget that Bernie Madoff mask that's topping the charts as the scariest Halloween costume this year. How about the New American Consumer. You know, the frugal shopper who's spending about 15 percent less on Halloween than he did last year. That's spooky news for purveyors of pumpkins and creators of costumes. That doesn't mean retailers aren't putting their best mask forward, as Cash Peters found out in Las Vegas earlier this year.


CASH PETERS: I didn't know this, but there's a trade show each year devoted entirely to Halloween.

Seriously, Eileen Oswald handles their PR.

EILEEN Oswald: People come to a Halloween show to buy costumes, to buy props, to buy makeup. A million different products to celebrate the season.

Amazing, really, given the season lasts just one day.

Dorothea Puccini sells Halloween masks.

DOROTHEA Puccini: It's actually one of the biggest holidays in the United States in terms of merchandising.

PETERS: Yeah, but what about the other 364 days when people aren't interested in Halloween.

Puccini: Well, you know what, there's a select group of people that are interested in Halloween all year.

Yeah, most of them heavily medicated I am guessing. Oh, and if you are wondering why Dorothea sounded slightly muffled, she was dressed as a vulture. But this isn't the place to come if you are squeamish. Everywhere you look, there are people selling severed limbs in bulk or a small tasteful mound of skulls for your front yard -- $80 wholesale or for 300 bucks, a life-sized private that shakes.

Like that. Shaking is taking over from fiendish cackling as the new big thing. Dave Gottschalk of Gag Studios.

DAVE Gottschalk: This is Captain Floggam. He is kind of the nasty version of Johnny Depp. A lot of people come in and say, gee, he kind of looks like Keith Richards.

PETERS: There isn't an exhibit in this entire show that doesn't look like Keith Richards, I have to say.

Gottschalk: That's true.

As always of course, there's all kinds of interesting stuff. Bill Shay sells that other Halloween staple, the disemboweled corpse.

BILL Shay: We sell bags of intestines.

PETERS: What am I gonna do with it?

Shay: Well, you are gonna hang it in places around your house, create a Halloween scene for the kids.

PETERS: And you are not being called by the social services.

Shay: Oh no, not at all.

PETER: What do you sell?

BRUCE GOLDSTEIN: We sell a candy product. It's called Pucker Powder.

This is Bruce Goldstein of Creative Concepts.

PETERS: And what's Pucker Powder?

GOLDSTEIN: Pucker Powder is basically, if I can say this, it's like a make-your-own pixie stick, but it's not a pixie stick because that's a Nestle product.

PETERS: So basically this is some kind of counterfeit?

GOLDSTEIN: No, not at all, not at all.

PETERS: How many lawsuits so far?

GOLDSTEIN: Zero. Not a one.

PETERS: Oh really.

GOLDSTEIN. Why would we? Because it's Pucker Powder.

Oh, of course it is.

Actually though, counterfeiting is a serious threat to a show like this. Bill Shay, the intestine guy, also sells pirate skeletons with flashing eyes. And he claims manufacturers come over from China, take his ideas for pirates, then return home and pirate them.

SHAY: They're king in China of being able to reproduce something someone else already made. Not the original ideas of any kind. I heard people say that at this rate China is going to take over the world. They'll never take over the world. They'll always need someone to tell them what to do.

PETERS: Nothing racist about that, then.

Shay: It's not a racist thing. It's culturally.

Wow, that's serious accus...Oh, look who's back. It's Dorothea again, only this time she was wearing a big purple bug-eyed mask with feathers.

PETERS: What is she now?

GUY: She's a gaylien.

PETERS: She's gay, and she's an alien.

GUY: That's right.

Puccini: I'm gaylien.

PETERS: You're a gaylien.

Puccini: Yes, showtime, showtime.

PETERS: Jazz hands. And what makes that mask so gay?

Puccini: I just think it's the personality behind it.

Oh yeah, or maybe it's just plain ol' homophobia masquerading as fun. Who knows. Anyway I was honestly shocked at how popular Halloween is. According the show's PR woman, Eileen Oswald, this may be one industry that may well be recession proof.

Oswald: People dress their pets now. So you have pet outfits, you have children's outfits.

PETERS: People are pathetic, aren't they really?

OSWALD: It's anything for a bit of fantasy.

PETERS: So what will you be going as this year?

OSWALD: With my particular personality, a witch suits me just fine.

PETERS: You are extremely difficult, I have to be honest.

She was. In Las Vegas, I'm Cash Peters for Marketplace.

RYSSDAL: Cash Peters is a humorist whose latest book is "Naked in Dangerous Places."

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...