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Halloween hesitancy hurting costume shops during pandemic

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The pandemic is putting the hurt on Halloween costume shops. With all the uncertainty, some parents and party-goers have been hesitant to buy something they may never use this year.

The Monsters RIP Halloween costume shop on the north side never opened this fall because of the pandemic.

At Ron’s Halloween and Patriotic Fireworks on the west side, the owner is thankful he has more than October to rely on to bring in business. But employees here hope things pick up in the next two weeks with people like Amber Watson coming by.

Watson and her stepson made their annual trip to Ron’s Halloween on Thursday afternoon, a little later than usual this year.

“It was a little delayed because we weren’t sure it was going to happen,” she said.

They picked out a mask and makeup to hand out candy. For most of their trip, they were the only ones in the store with two weeks to go before Halloween.

“It is a little spooky, yes,” Watson said with a laugh. “It’s usually really busy anytime in October.”

Some masks are free at Ron’s this year — the blue surgical kind. There’s also hand sanitizer.

New this year is a rule banning customers try on costumes before they buy them. All sales are final.

“I think a lot of folks are holding off just until they know for sure what’s going to happen,” Watson said.

But Ron’s manager Jeri Hatfield said the lack of a crowd is pretty typical for the season so far.

This year they didn’t buy any large figures or props, relying on last year’s holdovers. But they have been big hits, perhaps from people thinking it was a better way to celebrate in a more socially distant way.

Ron’s also bought fewer costumes than usual. Hatfield said they’ve been later to arrive than usual, too.

As for sales figures, the exact impact of the pandemic is unclear.

“We really won’t know for sure until the end of the season,” Hatfield said. “Usually when it is the busiest is the week before Halloween when everybody does their last-minute thing.”

At least in Marion County, the mayor and health officials are asking for no trick-or-treating.

“No, I’m not worried. I think they are going to come and buy their costumes even if they can’t go trick-or-treating. They’re going to dress up,” Hatfield said.

She’s hoping for more customers like Watson who plans to hand out candy twice — at the family campground and the neighborhood. Both are outside Marion County.

“A lot of people are planning on still handing out candy in our neighborhood this year just to give the kids some normalcy,” Watson said. “For us it’s going to just be like any other year. I just think that people might distance themselves a little more waiting to get candy.”

As News 8 reported in September, state health officials initially said trick-or-treating could be done safely but they recommended some changes including not letting kids pick out their own candy from a common bucket. But about two weeks ago, with more guidance from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, they changed their minds and called trick-or-treating a high-risk activity.

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