Tom Fallenstein is on a mission to "help save Halloween."
But the chief executive of Fun.com — owner of HalloweenCostumes.com — is in need of workers to help his family-run North Mankato operation fulfill more than 1 million online costume orders from around the world.
At Twin Cities Magic & Costume in West St. Paul, owner Jim Berg has rearranged his store to help cut back on crowds so people can shop for decorations, costumes and makeup safely, but traffic remains down.
Twin Cities' Halloween retailers are less than two weeks away from Halloween, a holiday usually dominated with costume-clad trick-or-treaters and spooky spectacles adorning front porches and lawns.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has made local and national stores change how they operate to address customers' changing preferences and safety concerns. The National Retail Federation predicts overall spending for the holiday to fall from nearly $8.8 billion last year to $8 billion this year, with 30% of people planning to buy their costumes online.
"Clearly everyone is ordering more online this year," said Fallenstein, whose family has been in the costume business for the last three decades. If demand stays on track, Fallenstein estimated that sales could grow as much as 10% this year compared with last.
HalloweenCostumes.com, which bills itself as the world's largest Halloween retailer, has become so desperate for workers to help box and ship costumes from its suburban warehouse that the company has offered to pay for out-of-town employees to stay in hotels in the Mankato area and has offered daily meal vouchers.
While big-budget movies usually dictate what costumes are popular, this year nostalgic costumes have been in demand, perhaps owing to what movies and television shows people are bingeing on screening platforms, such as Harry Potter, and costumes focused on current events like doctors, Fallenstein said.
HalloweenCostumes.com has a 200,000-square-foot warehouse, and in addition to its nearly 200 full-time staffers, the company usually hires about 2,000 seasonal workers. However, with many campus recruitment events being canceled and the inability to bring workers into the warehouse in large groups, HalloweenCostumes.com has struggled to hire enough people.
During peak days, the company has begun to offer worker incentives like drawings for televisions and other prizes.
The company conducts temperature checks and requires face masks to try to keep employees safe.
"It's hard work but also fun," Fallenstein said.
Over at Twin Cities Magic & Costume's nearly 11,000-square-foot store, Berg has widened walkways, brought in different shelving and rearranged merchandise to allow for more room for shoppers to peruse.
Beginning in September the store saw a big rush for decorations as customers began creating their own Halloween experiences at home, with their families or in collaboration with a small group of neighbors.
"They are doing huge house decorations," Berg said. "We had a lot of people say that they weren't going trick-or-treating in the streets but instead trick-or-treating in the house."
Halloween is easy to celebrate safely with many costumes coming with masks already, he said.
"There's no better holiday that was made for a COVID type of situation," Berg said.
Still, there have been difficulties with adjusting to the season. Berg said his dressing rooms aren't open, which limits how people normally like to shop.
The unusually cold fall season is also not helping sales. Still, Berg is optimistic.
"People are coming up with some good, socially distanced ways to continue to be safe and have fun," Berg said.
Minneapolis-based retailer Target and Walmart are hosting drive-through trick-or-treating at stores across the country, including several in Minnesota.