Halloween Scares Up New Licensing Efforts
October 31st may be months away, but the recent Halloween Expo in Las Vegas proved the holiday is increasingly becoming a year-round business. The trick to coming out on top? Developing a broad array of licensed costumes and accessories.
For example, Universal Parks & Resorts recently announced plans to expand Las Vegas’ Area 15 entertainment district with a 110,000-square-foot Halloween Horror Nights theme park that will draw from its own IPs (including Frankenstein, The Mummy, and Dracula) as well as those of filmmakers it has worked with (such as Jason Blum, Jordan Peele, and James Wan).
This focus on expanding the Halloween timeline could also be found on floor of Halloween Expo where the established suppliers like Jakks Pacific’s Disguise, NECA’s Rubie’s Costume Co., and Fun World were joined by relative upstarts like Jazwares (Marvel, Star Wars, and its own Squishmallows) as well as licensed apparel designer Jerry Leigh (NFL and NFLPA).
The growing number of suppliers and IPs getting in on the Halloween game—Rasta Imposta is readying Corona, Oscar Meyer Lunchables, Jolly Rancher, Southern Comfort, Fireball, and Grey Poupon costumes, for example, and California Costume Collection has U.S. Postal Service and United Parcel Service (UPS) costumes for dogs—follows the bankruptcy and sale of Rubie’s to NECA, something that freed up a number of licenses. It also comes as suppliers increase their assortment of adult costumes, such as Care Bears offerings that target those consumers who remain fans of a property that reached its first peak of popularity in the 1980s.
The further broadening of suppliers could also be seen in the large selection of licensed Halloween-related accessories from the likes of Kreepsville 666, which bowed an Elvira bi-fold pumpkin wallet, a bewitched heart bag, and a Vampira vase. And Fun World expanded the assortment for its Ghost Face IP with everything from a pumpkin carving kit to apparel in advance of the release of Paramount’s Scream VI film on March 10.
And while the largest suppliers continue to offer a broad range of products, niches are being filled by smaller competitors, like Trick or Treat Studios, which late last year acquired Don Post Studios from Paper Magic Group. The latter’s founder, Don Post, is credited with developing the first over-the-head latex masks in 1938, licensed versions of which were later created for Star Trek, Star Wars, Universal Classic Monsters, and Planet of the Apes. Trick or Treat launched licensed masks at the Halloween Expo for director Rob Zombie’s 2007 version of the Halloween film franchise.
“The larger suppliers are having as broad an assortment as possible, but within those assortments there are niches for gaming, anime, and other categories,” a Halloween licensee executive said. “The pie isn’t getting bigger—instead, it is being sliced up different ways.”
Yet as the Halloween market broadens, one of its top retailers—Party City—is struggling amid restructuring plans that may include seeking bankruptcy protection. And the Rick and Morty, Peppa Pig licenses were picked up by Rubie’s and Disguise, respectively, in the aftermath of costume supplier Palamon filing for bankruptcy in 2020.
While some Halloween product suppliers halted shipments to Party City late last year, others are taking deposits or requiring one payment when an order is placed and another when the products are delivered, industry executives said. Moving forward, many Halloween suppliers are expanding their direct-to-consumer business and increasing focus on the smaller specialty retailers that have been thriving.
“It’s been a rollercoaster, but we remain optimistic that this year’s sales will be as good if not better than 2022,” a licensing executive said in noting that shipping costs have decreased, and deliveries have returned to a more regular cadence.