According to a report by the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend a whopping $2.8 billion on Halloween costumes, which is up from previous years. But according to some local retailers, those ghouls ain’t necessarily looking for their Princess Elsa or Zombie Joan Rivers outfits in the Mission. Or, if they are spending money on Halloween, costume shopping in the Mission is not what it once was.
On Wednesday afternoon Mission Thrift felt full, with over 20 people sifting through the racks for that perfect frock or accessory. But according to Marilyn Fernando, who has worked at the store for four years, there used to be many more shoppers this time of year.
“It’s gotten slower,” Fernando said as she sold a young woman a black and gold bustier. “We attribute that to either a change in the climate of the neighborhood or the ease of ordering stuff online.”
Clothes Contact was mostly empty Wednesday afternoon. The store has been struggling to keep its business open. It announced earlier this year that its time in the Mission is coming to an end—though not as soon as originally reported, the store will likely close at the end of 2015.
Perhaps a different barometer for the neighborhood’s shifting interests, store manager Travis Stanton says the week leading up to Burning Man was a much busier time by far.
“It’s much lighter now, then it was then,” says Stanton.
Steven LeMay, whose consignment shop and costume rental business Retro Fit has been in business for over a decade, says everything about the way people shop for Halloween has changed.
“People don’t shop as early for Halloween as they used to,” says LeMay who explains his customers used to come in weeks before fright night to get suited up. “People would treat celebrating Halloween as art, but once all the artists and musicians are gone, who’s going to do that now?”
He says that he’s noticed new customers will throw down bigger cash for a costume, but they’ll never come in again.
So what are people buying who are shopping for Halloween this year? What’s the It costume of 2014 in the Mission?
“People are buying easy stuff, just the basic pieces,” says Fernando at Mission Thrift. “We’re selling a lot of Boy Scout shirts, but maybe that’s exclusive to our store because we have so many of them.”
At Clothes Contact, lots of people have been coming in for overalls and denim jumpsuits, but Stanton says he has no idea what they’re trying to be for Halloween.
“It’s mostly just the standards,” says LeMay a bit dejectedly. He says he’s seen a lot of zombies, because “it’s an easy out, you get your face painted, put on some ratty clothes, and you’re done.”
“I can’t think of a ton of interesting costumes,” he adds, though he’s seen a handful of women interested in renting a stylish mod 60s flight attendant mini-dress.
LeMay says he wishes that big tech companies would host office Halloween costumes and when I tell him that many of them do (Googleween being one of them), he blurts out: “Why don’t any of them come in here!?”
“Oh no, do and don’t quote me on that,” says Lemay knowingly. “How am I going to get them in here without alienating them?”
An informal poll reveals that the most popular costume among people who sell Halloween costumes in the Mission is: Jesus. Both Stanton and LeMay have plans to dress like the Son of God. Perhaps they can bless Mission vintage stores with added prosperity.
This has been your Afternoon Report—a new series we’re trying out in which we offer a quickie post-meridian rundown of some minor developments in the always-happening streets of the Mission District. Got ideas or suggestions? Let us know what you think by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.