As a store that operates for only six weeks of the year, owners of The Costume Place –– a Halloween shop in the Ithaca Mall –– say the business faces a daunting task each year: turning a profit in a limited period of time.
But Debra Worthing of Owego, N.Y., one of the store’s owners, said The Costume Place is a “very profitable business.”
John Worthing, who owns the store with his wife, said The Costume Place remains open each year from the middle of September to the evening of Oct. 31, occupying a temporary space in the mall.
The Worthings started at The Costume Place as employees. The couple bought the store when their friends no longer wanted to run the business, according to Debra Worthing.
Now, “we’ve been doing it for 24 years,” Debra Worthing said. “It was something that just kind of dropped in our lap.”
Though Debra Worthing still works part-time in a dental office, her husband devotes all of his time to the store, traveling between Ithaca Mall and the store’s second location in Horseheads, N.Y.
According to John Worthing, managing the store is a yearlong enterprise, despite the relative brevity of the Halloween season. When the store is not open, Worthing said the couple works throughout the year, taking inventory of the products in the store, as well as ordering new costumes and pricing them.
“There’s a lot of work involved when we’re not open in the stores,” he said. “There’s constantly things to do, but we’re not under any time pressure until this last month here.”
Any items that are not sold before Halloween are saved for the next year, stored in his garage, John Worthing said.
“We always have a fair amount of stuff left over,” he said. “Part of the job is getting figured out where and what it is.”
According to Worthing, the reason that most costumes and accessories can be reused from year to year is simple: quintessential costume ideas are often the store’s most popular items.
“Superheroes have been popular every year. The Wizard of Oz is always popular,” he said. “Generic stuff — witches, ninjas, all that kind of stuff–– is always popular with kids and adults, too. They’re standards every year. I think they’re more popular than any of the fads that come along.”
Still, Worthing said, The Costume Place makes sure to stock up on costumes that contain pop culture references. The store carries a variety of niche costumes, ranging from characters from the MTV reality series Jersey Shore to The Annoying Orange, an Internet comedy series –– though, he said, not all of these items prove to be top sellers.
For instance, Worthing said, though the costume of Garth from Wayne’s World was met with greater enthusiasm than he had expected this season, the store has not sold a single Annoying Orange mask this year.
“We tend to go light on the licensed [costume characters],” Worthing said. “They’ll be popular for a year or two and then all of a sudden you can’t get rid of them.”