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I am seriously considering getting into the Halloween retail business (or would it be more appropriately called the 'entrail' business... hmmm)
Obviously not for this year!

So here are my questions...
What do you like / hate about the Halloween stores in your area?
What would you like to see more / less of?
Are you willing to spend a little more to get a quality prop or do you think that Walmart has fulfilled all your Halloween fantasies?

And for those in the business...
What advice can you offer someone who is trying to break in and does not want to end up sleeping in a cardboard coffin on the street?
Is a year-round shop feasible or is it much less painful to do a seasonal type of situation?
Am I just asking for financial ruin?

Thank you so much for your feedback. And wish me luck!!
Andrea
 

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i think seasonal is your best bet.. unless you do a mixture of other holidays or novelty items or even better reinactment clothing.. to keep peoples attention. Then you can cross promote with groups like belly dancers , reniscance fairs.. and so on have you can have there flyers at the store as long as they agree to buy some of your merchandice. ya know?For the most part i think that the biggest issue at the moment is the cost of costumes. Its just rediculous! so cheaper costumes and props that you normally wouldn't find at a walmart or michaels.
 

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Dare to be different. Here's a thought...

Actually get the goods to the buyer in a reasonable amount of time. Also, don't sell stuff you don't have.

(Can you tell I have recently been burned by a Halloween retailer????) lol!
 

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One thing I would suggest is to visit other Halloween stores.
Take notes on how things are done or you would like done.

There are many things that irk me as a haunter when I visit a Halloween store.

First being that their staff knows nothing about any of their products, or is unapproachable for questions. They seem too occupied with stocking something, then helping a customer.

Some places don't play Halloween music that they sell, they have the radio on. How is this helping to make sales?

Don't carry the same sad Halloween party music every year. A wider variety of music, sound effects, etc. is more what we're looking for.

Many stores just have props in the front display. If a scene or display was made (using props sold in the store) has more impact. Like this is an example of what can be done with these things.

Don't over price your items like some stores that shall remain nameless (H E). If you could make the store more of a one stop shop, that would be better for everyone.

Many of the Halloween stores that I've visited are in former retail store spaces for a limited time. They have no character & it feels like your in someone's basement or garage. Even though it is a retail business, you need to make areas stand out. Example- a space devoted to haunt lighting & effects, that sort of thing. Anyone can have shelves of things like a big box store.
 

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I started a business last year, and currently have my shop on e-bay. I can tell you several things... I put a ton of money into it last year, spent a huge amount of time getting it all going... and when everything was said and done... I just barely broke even financially.

Unless you can buy enough product at wholesale cost to get a good discount, and ship enough to get a good shipping rates, it's really really hard to make a go of it.

Not trying to discourage you, just be sure you go into it with a healthy realistic outlook.

In general, no business makes much of a profit in it's first several years of doing business.. it takes time to build up regular customers, etc.
 

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IT takes lots and lots of time and patience. You have to eat, breath, and sleep horror and Halloween. I am online or out and about at least an hour or two a day just looking at the competition and seeing what we can improve on and what we are doing better than everyone else. For the first year I undercut every competitor I could find and got a lot of sales. But in the end I busted my bum for months to make almost nothing. I learned the hard way price is not everything. I can say we are definitely not the cheapest on the web and we don't have the largest variety. But what we do well is costumer service. We answer the phones and if we miss the call we call back within 24 hours. We return emails no matter what. We ship product in less than 24 hours almost up until Oct 10th. We now have a devoted customer base that shops with us a year long. Our customer base is something you couldn't pay me for at this point because we worked that hard to prove we are the ones people should be buying from.

If you are getting into a bricks and mortar store I would do seasonal only to start out. If you succeed there or find a reactive market then I would progress to a year long. If you do internet you will be open to sales from all over but getting your name out is frustrating to say the least. There are hundreds of online stores that are bigger and have been doing it longer than you. Banks also won't give loans to online stores unless you have a proven track record. Usually they want 3 years of tax returns with positive cash flow to even talk to you. Too many banks got hurt when the bubble burst on the internet market and their loans just evaporated. And now more than ever banks are tightening up due to the really bad stock market. Even people with a 780 beacon are having to fight to get loans now as banks are hoarding thier cash to fend off runs to the bank.

Sorry if that was a little long winded. Hope it helps.
 

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Daloween-Although i have not started a Halloween store....i know that many stores are very lucky to break even in there first year. My mom started a Nextel store....and she didnt brake even her first year...but now after her first year she is going strong.
 

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lies dead but dreaming
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Keep in mind also you are turning something you enjoy into a full time job. Some people can do that and keep going and keep having fun but allot of us can't mesh the two in a nice neat fashion.

That being said think about the things home haunters need to build props. Allot of what I use comes from Lowes or Home Depot but there are some things I just go to a Halloween retailer for. Things like: Positionable creepy critters (think rats spiders snakes etc) Foam and plastic skulls/bones, LED's, molding latex, creepy sound effect CD's and Music, Original Pumpkin stencils, etc.

Minions Web found himself a great little niche in Web guns and Hot glue for said guns. Every where you look for Glow in the Dark/ UV reactive glue they are selling his stuff. I just order direct from his web site instead.
 

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I agree with the above. If you really love Halloween you will really hate it if you get into the business. We use to throw huge parties. Now we are so wiped out by Halloween we rarely even dress up for the night. It would be the same as if you really loved Christmas and had a tree up and stockings on the wall year round. Would Dec 31st really be that special when it came around? Not really. We usually get pumped around the time of Transworld and things get crazy around September. After that you count the days until Oct 31st has passed.
 

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We have a seasonal Halloween store in my area and I go in every year. The owner is all about making money, which is fine and all, but the "fun" is not there when you talk to her. I remember last year, she would be so open/vocal about how she wasn't making any money when I mentioned to her how fun it must be to own a store like that. Her decor and costumes are a good 30-40% higher than other retail outfits. I bought a "grave" guy for $19.99 at one store and she is selling the same exact thing for $29.99.

If you open a store, just don't forget where you started. It would be tragic to be someone who started off creative, even with tombstones that you made by hand to all about $$ and stocked copy cat stuff. Just my two cents.
 

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1. Quality of product is extremely important. As it is with all business the plan is keep the COGS down and turn the best possible profit. Sometimes a profit of $5 per item is better than $10, because it will keep people coming back year after year.

2. Cleanliness of your store if you have one is important. Anyone that has been to a Sprit of Halloween store knows that the spaces they rent is a mess and dirty.

3. Creativity of the layout of the store. Setting up scenes are good ways to sell. I personally love going into a store that has settings and shows the products in action.

4. Appreciate your store(s) and customers as much as your appreciate the Halloween holiday.

5. Overall, don't forget your love of Halloween.
 

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As someone with a degree in business I recommend you are very solid with basic business practices before getting into any endeavor. It’s more than just setting up a storefront.

Things to consider: accounting practices, state and local laws, liability insurance, human resource details, type of organizational structure your business will assume, marketing, demographics (especially socioeconomic), tax liabilities, wholesaler, shippers, inventory management styles, etc.

Remember, most small businesses fail in the first few years. Spend a year planning the details.

Start with a solid, written, business plan.
 
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