(Filed Under wholesale Costume News). In early October, BODY publisher Nick Monjo interviewed Rob Fitzgerald, who produces lingerie and Halloween costumes, under the Starline and Party King labels. He talked about the latest news at his business, as well as overall trends.
MONJO: How did Halloween 2019 compare to previous years for Starline?
FITZGERALD: In one word, CRAZY! Both Starline and Party King have already exceeded their total revenue numbers for all of last year with a strong Holiday lingerie season still to come!! Oh, and while doing all that, we moved to a larger warehouse and set up a separate design and sales office. Lots of fun! We believe that a lot of retailers played Halloween too safe this year and are finding themselves short of costume inventory. It took me years in the industry to finally discover that the best-selling costumes sell out first!!! Haha! So we are seeing a bit of panic buying and even with air freighting in re-orders we are already experiencing line outages with all of October left to go. I think that it is going to be a great year for the whole industry.
MONJO: What were some of the macro business trends that you observed this year?
FITZGERALD: Not surprisingly, we have seen most of the growth from our e-tail customers. Fortunately, as we predicted, the decline of our bricks and mortar retail customers seems to have slowed dramatically and might even end up showing some growth after the year is over. Although shoppers’ buying habits are increasingly moving to on-line purchasing, it is my belief that the remaining retail vendors that are still in business have “something.” That something might be an established customers base, a great location, great customer support or something else. The bottom line that the trend is still e-tail but that the retailers still standing are doing a great job and should be able to thrive going forward.
MONJO: How was Starline positioned in the market for this year’s event?
FITZGERALD: Pretty well I think. We have expanded our addressable market significantly by positioning costumes that emphasize humor, elegance and/or fashion design rather than merely sexy. We still like just sexy best! Also our big push into plus sizes is really kicking in as we now have a breadth of product to supply a plus size costume retailer across the board. We added some very significant new customers this year and are excited about future prospects with them. Our private label business is really strong and we expect that to continue. We deliver private label costume and lingerie styles to larger retail and brand customers at a cost comparable to in-house development work but with the advantage of being able to bring the fresh ideas of an outside agency. We are also initiating private label/exclusive relationships with some smaller customers as well. Our knowledge, systems and factory relationships allow us to give them access to more of a direct-from-China model without the significant cost and headaches of trying to manage the system themselves. Unfortunately, I don’t see margin pressures across the costume and lingerie ecosystem going away any time soon so we all need to figure out how to work together more efficiently.
MONJO: From an overall business perspective, how does Halloween 2020 look right now, for Starline, for the industry?
FITZGERALD: Nick, sorry but I can’t help it: Its going to be a MONSTER year. I am predicting that costume inventory levels in November will be the lowest that they have been in years. With clean inventories across the industry, we should be seeing a whole bunch of new and exciting styles that should resonate well with buyers. With a Saturday Halloween, I am predicting a BIG record Halloween!! This is not unique to Starline but across the board. Of course, we hope to get more than a proportionate share!
MONJO: Can you share what some of the most successful costumes were this year?
FITZGERALD: There is some really good stuff out there!! Our catalog cover, Empress Divine, has been a run-away success. We always put what we think is the best new design on our cover but it seems to work like the Madden curse so we hope that the Empress has finally broken the spell for good. Also, we can’t seem to be able to keep our Birthday Suit and Blasphemous Babe in stock. Party King’s Mermaids are truly unique and in huge demand. I know that I am not supposed to plug the competition but I think that Yandy’s Mr. Rogers is awesome and the Bone Baddie for sale at Windsor is just great on every level. I am sorry for not knowing who came up with it and acknowledging them. I think customers are finally getting a little super-hero fatigue and are ready to move on to more originality. I know I am!
MONJO: Starline has its own perspective, from a quality point of view; how did that work out for you this year?
FITZGERALD: We are all about quality and completeness and pushed even further in that direction in 2019. If a customer orders one of our costumes, they are usually amazed by what they get. Not only is the material dramatically heavier and of better quality than a typical Halloween costume, the workmanship and detail is rock solid. On top of that, we try to provide as much of the accessories as we would expect that most of the customers of that costume would want. As an example, our Happy Tree Painter costume includes the costume plus a paint pallet clutch, stuffed squirrel and wig. How many other costumes include a wig, a purse and a stuffed animal??? Our Snake Charmer has a stuffed snake that is probably 3 feet long. Our Private Investigator comes with a real magnifying glass that could fry ants!! So even though our products are a little more expensive, a customer that buys our costumes usually has a complete look at a fraction of what it would take buying the accessories separately and also the confidence that the quality of the accessories are consistent with the costume and each other. I think our growth is a validation that our approach is beginning to be appreciated!!
MONJO: What else would you like to share about the Halloween market and Starline?
FITZGERALD: For some reason it just feels like that this Halloween is building up sooner and bigger than years past!! Whether is it watching The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown for the hundredth time or Tales of Halloween for the first time (and HIGHLY recommending it), carving pumpkins with the kids or decorating your house for a party with your friends, trick-or-treating, Haunted Houses, corn mazes, Fright Night and the never diminishing feeling that absolutely anything could happen on October 31, Halloween is the best!! All of us from Starline and Party King hope that all of Body Magazine’s readers take a break from their normal lives get a chance to drink deeply of the magical elixir that is Halloween!! Best wishes for a great 2019 and even better 2020!
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