Of course, here in the United States, September through October is the height of costume purchasing in preparation for Halloween festivities.
What hasn’t changed, however, is that while the demand for the latest trends in costume ideas vary year to year, price points must stay consistent for customers who want to step out of reality even when the economy struggles. “I’m not saying this industry is recession-proof, but it is resistant,” Executive Vice President Howard Beige says. “As the economy becomes tough, people will cut back on large purchases, but who tells a child not to celebrate Halloween?”
Not Rubie’s, that’s for sure. The company was founded by husband-and-wife duo Rubin and Tillie Beige as Rubie’s Candy Store in Queens in New York in 1951. The store sold jokes, tricks, novelties, candy and soda.
By 1968, the company was renamed to Rubie’s Costume Co. as the Beige family moved to wholesale costume distribution. Beige says this turn of events came about as U.S. consumers began buying costumes instead of using homemade ones.
In the mid-1980s, Halloween began to appeal to adults as parents brought their children in from the streets and trick-or-treating and threw parties for safety reasons. Beige says the trend sparked demand for higher-quality costumes, driving price points from as low as $2.99 to $14.99 or more.
In 1989, Rubie’s landed its first commercial license – for Star Trek costumes from Paramount Studios. Today, Rubie’s Costume Co. boasts more than 2.2 million square feet of warehousing space and an international presence in 14 countries. Rubie’s licensed costumes and accessories now comprise more than 55 percent of its annual sales.
“We consider ourselves a global company in the costume business, and the country we’re in determines what the market is for costumes,” Beige says. “Our product line varies throughout the world. ”
Rubie’s Costume employs its own design departments on five continents that must stay abreast of the latest trends in fashion as well as costume design. For licensed products, Rubie’s designers must adhere to specifications distributed by the licensor while creating products that span price points. For instance, for this year’s Batman products, Rubie’s will offer a basic costume that starts at $14.99, but accessories and amenities can cost as much as $199.99.
While demand for certain generic costumes is cyclical, the style of the designs is always something to be considered, Beige says. “When you’re trying to predict what happens in the regular fashion industry, you’re using it to create much more modern-looking characters for the following season,” he adds. “We need to know what fabrics are hot, as well as what colors will be hot the following season.”
Despite its worldwide reach around the world, Rubie’s Costume Co. has plans for additional diversification domestically and abroad. Beige says he envisions adding complementary divisions to the company’s core costume business, such as toys and accessories related to its licenses.
No matter what the future holds, however, Beige says the company’s focus remains on satisfying each and every client it has, regardless of its size or location.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on is our focus on all customers, whether they’re an independent costume or party store, a large regional chain or Walmart,” he says. “One of the things that has made us successful for 61 years is treating every single customer as if they are our most important customer.”