Sinister clowns are back with a vengeance in Halloween stores this year.
“Because of the sightings (last year), people didn’t want to get wrapped up in it then,” said Heather Crawford, general manager of the Spirit Halloween store at Marketplace Mall. As a result of the controversy, and rumors that police were keeping an eye out for people in clown suits, they weren’t a big seller in the 2016 season.
But this year, thanks in part to the hit Stephen King movie “It,” “Clowns are huge,” said Cynthia Lovette, marketing manager in the Carolinas for Halloween City, which has eight stores in North and South Carolina including one at Hanes Mall.
At Halloween City, Lovette said that boys — particularly ones 10-15 — and adults are often asking about clown costumes as soon as they walk in the door. At Spirit, some of the most popular clown costumes this year are for women, including killer clowns and murderous mimes. The “Killer Clown” female costume is available in both adult and kid sizes, and Crawford said she had seen mothers and daughters buying one of each to have matching costumes.
Both chains have had a lot of demand for DC Comics characters Harley Quinn and The Joker, which straddle the line between clowns and supervillains. For the guys, in addition to the evil “It” clown Pennywise and The Joker, there are jesters, Twisty the Clown from “American Horror Story,” and ringmasters.
At Spirit, “Stranger Things,” Netflix’s hit show, is also well-represented, with wigs, costumes and accessories, as is the 1993 Disney magical comedy “Hocus Pocus,” with an assortment of witch costumes.
For girls, Disney characters — particularly Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” and characters from “Descendants 2” — are popular. The “Descendants” movies follow a group of kids who are the offspring of Disney villains; The character Uma, daughter of Ursula the Sea Witch from “The Little Mermaid,” has proven so popular that both chains are having a hard time keeping her outfit in stock.
For boys, superheroes — particularly Spider-Man and Batman — and emoji masks and hats, including a “Poop” mask, are popular, as are ninjas. Crawford said that she had been surprised how popular ninja costumes had proven so far this year for boys. “I’ve been doing this eight years,” she said, “and I’ve never sold as much of this stuff.”
Lovette said that “Star Wars” characters were also selling well this year with younger boys.
On Thursday, the Betbeze family from Clemmons was scouting various Halloween costume stores in the area, moving from Halloween City at Hanes Mall to Party City on Stratford Road to Spirit at Marketplace in search of costumes and accessories.
“We live in a neighborhood that really gets into Halloween in a big way,” said Travis Betbeze as he looked over Spirit’s selection of steampunk accessories — top hats, goggles and other props that blend science fiction and Victorian flare.
His plan this year is to be a “steampunk clown,” combining the props with face paint to create his own character. In addition to Halloween stores, he planned to hit Goodwill and consignment shops in his quest for wardrobe and props to complete the look.
His wife Brittany and their 4-month-old son Lucas will be going in a dual costume as characters from “Super Mario” video games, little Lucas wearing a cap to be Mario and Brittany carrying him while dressed as Luigi. Their other two sons already have their costume ideas lined up, with 7-year-old Briley going as Michael Myers from the “Halloween” movies and 4-year-old Talon going as a werewolf.
Christian Martinez was shopping at Spirit with his children, 4-year-old Shae and 2-year-old Nikolai. Though her dad had already bought them costumes to go as Moana and Maui from the Disney film “Moana,” little Shae still wanted to see what other costumes were in the store, excitedly racing up to a wall of masks to try on werewolves, monkeys and a scary bunny.
Not everyone doing Halloween shopping was looking for costumes for costumes; Margie Hendrick, a bartender at the Ole Watering Hole bar in Wallburg, was buying tombstones, spider webs and netting for their Oct. 28 Halloween festivities. She did have a costume idea of her own design in mind: “Tragedy Ann,” a twisted version of “Raggedy Ann.”
Tombstones and spider webs are popular decorations each year, said Lovette, who has been in the Halloween business for 17 years now, and purple and orange string lights are growing in popularity.
Another Halloween party decor option that is already proving big this year: “Clowns,” Lovette said. “They’re number one.”