The creepy clown phenomenon may depress overall Halloween sales on Long Island and nationwide if parents are wary of sending their kids out to trick-or-treat, a local retail analyst says, but some retailers say sales of scary clown costumes are booming.
Recent reports of weird clown sightings and menacing incidents across the country will affect how people, particularly parents, celebrate Halloween, said Marshal Cohen, senior retail analyst with NPD Group, a Port Washington-based market research company.
“It is going to have a big impact on Halloween, particularly in our area,” Cohen said. “You are going to see parents who are not going to let their kids go door to door. It is going to change the dynamic. Some people may not get the extra candy or decorate like they have in the past.”
However, a National Retail Federation survey released last month, as the creepy clown phenomenon was spreading, projected that Halloween sales nationally would reach a record-breaking $8.4 billion, compared to $6.9 billion last year. The average spending per person will be $82.93, compared with $74.34 last year, the survey said.
“Retailers are selling clown costumes and accessories, but many of them are not giving clowns top billing because other costumes, such as superheroes, presidential candidates, emojis and Pokemon-related costumes, are frankly more fan favorites,” said retail consultant Danielle Conte, a founder of the shopping blog YoutailRetail.com in Centerport.
Earlier this week, Target announced that “given the current environment,” it has pulled some clown masks off its store shelves and website. Last week, McDonald’s said Ronald McDonald would be keeping a low profile due to reports of creepy clown sightings.
Their decisions come after a growing number of reports on social media and to police of people wearing creepy or scary-looking clown costumes and making threats. The reports first came out of South Carolina in August and have since spread across the country, including Long Island. Some of the reports have turned out to be hoaxes.
Earlier this month, Nassau County police reported that a tall, thin man wearing a purple clown costume approached a 14-year-old Lakeview high school student from behind and displayed a large kitchen knife. The incident is still under investigation.
“Every call that we get pertaining to a clown of a threatening nature we will take very seriously,” Nassau police spokesman Det. Let. Richard LeBrun said.
Robin Gorman Newman, of Great Neck, co-founder of the group Motherhoodlater.com, said some parents may resort to only letting their kids trick-or-treat at local businesses, which are considered safe spaces, instead of going door to door.
“It is like a double-edged sword, because you want your kids to enjoy Halloween without fear, but at the same time as a mom, you want to keep them safe,” she said.
But the publicity has been a boon for Kentucky-based online costume retailer Halloween Express, which says its clown costume and mask sales are up 239 percent. The most popular seller has been an “evil clown adult mask,” spokesman Brad Butler said. It’s described as a carnival clown “showing you his evil grin before he does you in.”
North Carolina-based Shop.com reported a 500 percent increase in online sales of adult male clown costumes, as well as an increase in clown-related costume items, such as shoe covers, wigs and suspenders.
Long Island Costume in Hauppauge said sales of creepy clown masks and costumes, including a Psycho Clown and Horror Clown, are up, too.
People who choose clown costumes for Halloween “are not necessarily doing it to be mean, but they are doing it to get in with the joke,” said Sharon Tiskowitz, manager of the 14,000-square-foot store. “The idea comes out on social media, and everybody does it.”