“We just can’t seem to agree on Marvel or DC,” said Donna Barker, pointing at her husband and two children, who were arguing over the value of DC superheroes versus Marvel superheroes. The family of four was browsing Halloween Adventure, the 3rd store they visited that day in search of the best superhero costume prices for their group costume. “Our whole family really enjoys both Marvel and DC Comics superheroes and Donna and I were huge comic nerds as kids, so there’s that,” said Thomas, Donna’s husband. Their two kids, Naomi and Peter, aged 6 and 8, stood off to the side discussing the pros and cons of Captain America. “I like him because he’s patriotic,” said Naomi.
Halloween 2016 is the time for superheroes, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2016 Halloween Consumer Top Costumes Survey. Superheroes officially dethroned princesses as the most popular children’s costumes and the Barkers are few of many who contributed to this change.
However, kids are not the only ones who enjoy superhero costumes. One of the reasons the Barkers were arguing is because little Naomi felt left out. Donna and Thomas were planning to be Harley Quinn and The Joker, leaving Peter to be Batman. “With the geek-centered costumes, like superheroes, the demographic is widespread. We get a lot of families in here trying to coordinate,” said Megan, one of the managers of Halloween Adventure. For many, the desire to look authentic is greater than the desire to be thrifty.
Halloween Adventure has a wide array of superhero costumes, including Harley Quinn, the DC Comics villain whose popularity skyrocketed with the release of Suicide Squad this year. The store has multiple versions of Harley Quinn costumes, as well as accessories for those who want to put together their own costume. The shirt with the attached jacket sells for $50, while the complete costume sells for $150. “I don’t care how much money it costs. I just want to look like her,” said Kayla, a customer, while examining the complete Harley Quinn costume. “I’ve been saving for a while, so I know I’m going to look great on Halloween.”
Halloween Adventure has taken advantage of the resurgence in superhero popularity. The majority of the costumes on the storefront window are superheroes: Batman, Wonder Woman and Spiderman are among the ones shown.
Other stores in the city have also milked the superhero trend. The Village Party Store has placed Harley Quinn tights, Captain America tights, and spider man’s mask towards the front of the store. “I like Superman much better than Batman. The cape is $25 which is kind of steep, but I can always wear it again,” said Henry, a customer at the Village Party Store.
Spending on Halloween costumes is estimated to reach $3.1 billion this year. Pricing for superhero costumes is mostly standard across the board with brands like Leg Avenue widely sold in most costume shops. The Barkers were Halloween store hopping, finding the Harley Quinn costume to be $10 cheaper at Halloween Adventure than at the Village Party Store. “We get a lot of people looking to buy accessories, like the Superman cape, the Harley Quinn tights, the Captain America shield etc. to put together their own costumes,” said Adam, a Village Party Store employee.
At Spirit Halloween, children’s full-body Iron Man and Captain America suits were priced at $60. “A lot of hopeful kids come in, and their parents are kind of reluctant to spend that much on something that will only be worn once,” said Marissa, a Spirit Halloween employee.
It pays to shop around, as the Barkers found. After trying the Village Party Store and Spirit Halloween, they finally hit the jackpot with Halloween Adventure. When buying Halloween costumes for four people, costs add up. Even with the variety in Halloween Adventure, they were about to spend almost $200 on costumes that Donna and Thomas could wear again, but that Naomi and Peter would outgrow. Despite this, Donna is not worried. “It’s worth it. There’s nothing quite like the memories you have of dressing up and bonding with your family on Halloween.”