With worries about competition, inventory and staffing, opening a retail business is a scary proposition—probably only compounded when your merhandise includes ghouls, ghosts, goblins and other Halloween items.
But for franchise owners Joe and Lorraine Nicastro, of Manalapan, running seasonal Halloween Express stores has become a family specialty. This year, the family opened a store on Route 22, in Green Brook, just west of Rock Avenue, being run by their son Joseph, in addition to stores in Manalapan and East Brunswick.
The store opened about a month ago, and Nicastro said business usually builds slowly before October—but some are anxious to get their "spook" on.
"Yesterday when I opened, I must have had 10 people waiting," he said, Monday.
The store has just about anything a person could need for Halloween, including around 2,000 kids costumes, adult costumes—even kits to make a cat, bunny or doctor costume.
And then there's the decorations—skeletons to hang on the trees, ghouls to drift overhead...
Most retailers have history to guide them through their busiests seasons, but in the world of temporary retailing, things are a little diferent. Nicastro said he operated a store in Union last year, so it's hard to be certain what will sell best this year.
Unsold inventory is boxed up for another year, but you can always count on some item to capture buyers' attention—usually, it's a costume based on a popular new horror movie character or villain. Nicastro said this year's must-have costume is "Bane," the villain from "The Dark Knight Rises."
"We'll be getting it in within a couple of weeks," Nicastro said.
Last year's most popular item was a Joker mask, despite no new movies to drive the interest. "Something just sparked to make that happen," Nicastro said.
The last-minute inventory stems from the tight purchasing cycle of the stores. Nicastro said most of his family's company purchases are made more than six months in advance—often before anyone knows what will be the hottest item.
"We go to a convention in February in Texas and that's where (wholesalers) show what they have for the season," he said.
The store is located at 25 Route 22 East, and will host special face painting or photo events on Saturdays between noon and 3 p.m. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.