American Morning

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October 29th, 2010
06:00 AM ET

(Tea) Partying for Halloween?

By Erica Fink, American Morning Producer

It's time to party like it’s 1773.

This Halloween, sales are up across the board; but sales of Colonial costumes are beating the spread.

Retailers think it’s the influence of the Tea Party and election-year patriotism, but they’re not asking too many questions as they bring in more revenue from Revolutionary officer uniforms and breeches.

"It’s all about the scallywag hats. People are interested in anything they can get for that look," says Andrew Perry, a Halloween Express franchise owner in Charlottesville, VA. Perry has resorted to looting pieces from his pirate costumes to meet the demand for Colonial-style costumes. The category is doing twice as well for him as it did last year, and the vast majority of his Colonial inventory has already sold.

Perry’s store is not alone. National online retailers CostumeCraze.com and BuyCostumes.com have both seen an increase in sales of about 50 percent for their “Colonial” items in the past two months. In both cases, that represents a bigger rise than they’ve seen in overall sales.

“Colonial sales are up even more than all of the other kinds of costumes that we sell,” says Dan Haight, chief operating officer of BuyCostumes.com. The company, which has been processing 40,000-50,000 orders a day this week, is doing between 15 and 30 percent better than last Halloween.

Powdered wigs are up 70 percent for BuyCostumes. Tricorn hats, Colonial socks and the shoebuckles sold on the website’s “Colonial” page are all up 60 percent.

Across America, Halloween retailers are having a good season. The National Retail Federation projects that sales will be up 17.7 percent from Halloween 2009. They also found that more people are planning to dress up than any time since 2005.

But why are they turning to Sam Adams for their style?

“There's been a resurgence, as of late, with America. A lot of people are getting involved with politics…many people are discussing issues relating to our government, our founding, our Constitution,” says Jeff Wiseman, Costume Craze’s vice president of marketing and business development. And he believes demand for these period costumes has increased alongside political enthusiasm.

Patriotic spirit might explain why Uncle Sam is so popular this year on their website – outperforming by 138 percent over last year.

At Target, the jabot and cuff set is selling well. "[Compared] to this time last year, we have seen an increase in sales across all Colonial costume items,” says Target spokesperson Tara Schlosser. Their prices range from $11.99 for accessories to $48.99 for the adult men’s costume - higher than the average costume price predicted by the NRF ($23.37).

Some of the states where Colonial costumes are selling particularly well line up with places where there have been Tea Party victories (though it is not a perfect match). In Delaware, where Republican candidate and Tea Party darling Christine O’Donnell is challenging Democrat Chris Coons, sales are up 200 percent. In North Dakota, Tea Party-endorsed Republican Gov. John Hoeven is running against Democrat Tracy Potter, and Colonial sales are up more than anywhere in the country, according to Costume Craze.

We'd like to hear from you: Will you be dressing up for Halloween? Will you be in Colonial garb, or something else?


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