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Pirates, Princesses, Witches And Vampires: Stocking Costumes Is Serious Business

Ricky's employee, George Lanes, shows off one of this year's hottest costumes, Anna, from the movie Frozen.
Quoctrung Bui/NPR
Ricky's employee, George Lanes, shows off one of this year's hottest costumes, Anna, from the movie Frozen.

What are you going to be for Halloween? If you don't know, don't feel bad. Most people don't figure it out until the last minute.

That makes running a costume shop a challenging business. If you don't have a enough of the costume people want, you don't have time to re-stock it. If you order too many of this year's hot new thing, you are stuck with the extras.

The key to success in the costume business is having the right mix of costumes and hedging your bets. Think about it like putting together a stock portfolio.

Richard Parrott runs Ricky's NYC, one of the biggest costume shops in New York, and he says the blue chips in his world are "pirates, princesses, witches, vampires, and superhero costumes."

You've got to balance these old favorites out with high-risk, high-reward bets. This year, Parrott's hot pick is costumes from the Disney movie, Frozen. Parrott has a six-year-old son. He says after they saw the movie together earlier this year, he thought "I'm going to buy absolutely every piece of I can get of that."

Parrott's biggest fear, is a repeat of 2013. That was the year the country went crazy for the show Breaking Bad. Parrott says he didn't realize how popular Breaking Bad costumes would be until a week before Halloween. There was one company making Breaking Bad costumes that year, and they were totally sold out. So Parrott and his staff had to get creative:

"We found a manufacturer that had a suit, and then we found somebody with the masks and then we found somebody with the rock candy."

Parrott said as fast as they could make the costumes, people would buy them.

"Literally, you would bring a box into a store and they would all be sold in seconds, " says Parrott.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stacey Vanek Smith is the co-host of NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money. She's also a correspondent for Planet Money, where she covers business and economics. In this role, Smith has followed economic stories down the muddy back roads of Oklahoma to buy 100 barrels of oil; she's traveled to Pune, India, to track down the man who pitched the country's dramatic currency devaluation to the prime minister; and she's spoken with a North Korean woman who made a small fortune smuggling artificial sweetener in from China.