Unmasking Costume Trends with Howard Beige – The Toy Book

Howard Beige, executive vice president of Rubie’s Costume Co., talks pop culture costumes, decor demand, a Saturday Halloween, and more.

Toy Book: What are some costumes or properties that outperformed expectations in 2019?
Howard Beige:
Spider-Man, Avengers: Endgame, It Chapter 2, Stranger Things, The Joker, classic Ghostbusters, and horror properties in general were some of the best-selling costumes last year. Baby Shark was a late-season addition that was on fire!

TB: What Halloween and costume trends do you expect to see this year?
HB: With a Saturday Halloween this year, we will see an increase in tween/teen and adult Halloween participation. There will be more parties with the entire family celebrating. Also, the pet costume category will continue to grow.

TB: Last year was packed with blockbuster movies, from Avengers: Endgame to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. This year doesn’t have those major releases on the calendar. What impact, if any, do you think this will have on costume sales this year?
HB: There is a lot more content coming in 2020. In addition to major films, such as Wonder Woman 1984, Birds of Prey, Black Widow, Venom 2, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Top Gun Maverick, and Minions: The Rise of Gru, there is a tremendous amount of new streaming video-on-demand services that will have major new content, such as The Mandalorian, Marvel’s Spider-Man Maximum Venom, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Watchmen, and much more.

I think consumers have many favorite characters and always have a choice for their costume. We do see more of a pop culture influence in costume properties, so there are always many things trending that will capture our customers’ attention.

TB: There has been a significant increase in female superheroes and female-led movies in the past couple of years. How has this impacted costume trends?
HB: These strong role models have been credited with the girl-power trend. Princesses and damsels in distress have dropped significantly in popularity, while strong women have gained popularity. We are also seeing girls wanting to dress in jumpsuit costumes and not in the frilly tutu dresses that they used to like. We are now positioning many of these as unisex or gender-neutral. Another trend we’re seeing is the popularity of horror characters among young girls.

TB: The National Retail Federation reported that social media has a growing influence on Halloween costumes. In what ways do social media and influencer culture impact the products that Rubie’s creates?
HB: Rubie’s has looked to social media as a source of inspiration for many years. As we typically start to develop costumes about 18 months in advance, we look to social media — as well as high fashion — for trends on the horizon. We have also greatly expanded our line of costume separates, which allow the wearer to still be the character they choose but to use a blend of our costume separates and their own apparel to create an individualized look. This allows a group of three to four people to attend a party in a similar theme, yet still have their own unique look.

TB: Rubie’s has a significant presence at many fan conventions, including New York Comic Con and Comic-Con International: San Diego. What makes these events a good fit for Rubie’s? What does the company get out of these events, and in what ways does Rubie’s connect with fans?
HB: Rubie’s exhibits at these consumer shows as part of our support for the studio licenses we hold, as well as to interact directly with today’s cosplayers. It’s helpful for us to be there so that consumers know us as the brand behind the license. It’s also helpful for us to gain insight into ongoing and upcoming trends that cosplayers are passionate about.

TB: What trends do you see in the Pet Boutique line, and how closely do they mirror trends in human costumes?
HB: Pet costume trends mimic kid and adult costume trends. Pets today are an integral part of the family, and humans buy for their pets as they would for their infant, toddler, or child. Many pets today are dressed as the sidekick of the child or parent. For example, the pet may be dressed as Robin while the child is dressed as Batman. And, pet owners can easily dress up their pets in accessories and costumes throughout the year. We have the largest collection of pet accessories, toys, and costumes for year-round sales opportunities.

TB: The Imagine by Rubie’s line features dress-up items for many popular licenses. How does the process for developing a role-play item differ from the process for developing a full costume?
HB: Everyday dress-up or role-play costumes by Imagine are typically constructed to be more durable, as they are used for extended play opportunities. We also provide muscle tops and masks, capes, and other accessories, but the child wears his or her own pants. Full costumes are typically worn one, maybe two times for the season, and the following year the child wants to be something else.

TB: We are in an era of reboots, including the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick and Ghostbusters: Afterlife. How do these new takes on classic movies impact costume trends? Do they increase demand for costumes based on the original properties?
HB: While these iconic movies’ reboots are always looked forward to, consumers are very loyal to the original characters, and we typically see higher demand for the classic costumes.

TB: What new trends do you see in the way people celebrate Halloween?
HB: More people celebrate as a family and/or group. Families are dressing in themes — such as Minions, Wizard of Oz, Ghostbusters, superheroes, Star Wars, etc. — including children, infants, and pets. People of all ages are more inclined to decorate, both inside and outside their homes. Decor is a fast-growing Halloween category, as is pets.

TB: Where does Rubie’s see most of its sales: online, traditional brick-and-mortar locations, Halloween pop-ups, or elsewhere?
HB: National retailers, specialty retailers, and independent retailers are still the largest part of our business. Online sales continue to grow.

TB: Rubie’s launched a new line of life-sized statues of many pop culture characters. How did that line come to be, and what has the consumer/industry response been like for the products?
HB: We have made a number of these life-sized statues over the years, but the new ones are made of a lighter-weight fabrication, which allows for lower shipping rates and a more affordable product. Many retailers have wanted to feature some in their stores and are now better able to afford these statues. Our comic book fans love them, and many have purchased their favorite characters for their own homes.

TB: Rubie’s also owns decor and prop companies Forum Novelties and Morbid Enterprises. What trends are you seeing in Halloween decor, or in holiday decor in general?
HB: We are seeing more consumers purchase more decor, both for inside and outside their homes. We are also developing decor at many different price points to meet the budgets of a much larger group of consumers who wish to decorate their homes.

TB: In 2018, Rubie’s officially voiced support for the Saturday Halloween movement. What is the status of that petition, and why do you believe a Saturday Halloween would be preferable?
HB: This petition showed us and the Halloween Costume Association that many consumers are traditionalists and are not in favor of moving Halloween to any day other than October 31. The Halloween Costume Association’s intent was to allow Halloween to always fall on a Saturday, when trick-or-treating could take place during daylight and therefore be safer for children. This way, parents could also easily participate without having to leave work early, and then at night everyone could celebrate Halloween together at home.

The Halloween Costume Association is now supporting National Trick-or-Treat Day, also being promoted as #ALLOWEEN, which makes the last Saturday of October one more opportunity to celebrate in a safer environment and as a family.

This article originally appeared in the December/January 2020 issue of the Toy Book.