All 12 Goodwill of South Central Wisconsin stores have dedicated Halloween sections. Sales for Halloween account for about 13% of annual revenue.

While many shoppers might not begin to even think about Halloween or what they might wear as a costume until the beginning of fall, Goodwill thrift stores have been preparing all year long.

Goodwill of South Central Wisconsin employees set aside donations to the stores throughout the year with an eye toward what could be used in a Halloween costume, said Tony Lawson, vice president of operations.

The Halloween season is responsible for about 13% of the annual revenue for the region’s Goodwill, Lawson said.

“Halloween is really our big push,” Lawson said. “Christmas is kind of in there, but Halloween is our focal point.”

Goodwill of South Central Wisconsin is looking at growing its status as a Halloween store over the coming years, Lawson said. The area trails behind some other nearby regions in Halloween sales, he said, and a cultural shift within the stores could boost Goodwill’s reputation as a place to find all the pieces of a homemade costume.

“We’re trying to build it up to be a one-stop shop,” Lawson said.

Goodwill opens with big numbers

Part of the plan to bolster Halloween includes encouraging workers who sort donations to think about items that could be used for Halloween, even while sorting in the dead of winter or heat of summer, spokeswoman Lori Wirth said. These items could include anything from long black dresses for a witches costume, worn out wedding dresses for a zombie bride or even simple white sheets for a classic ghost. As the summer comes to a close, employees start displaying those items.

“We do try to kind of amass as much as we can over the year to make sure we have a good stock,” Wirth said.

All 12 Goodwill of South Central Wisconsin stores have designated Halloween shop areas, which include some packaged products, such as makeup and decorations. The Halloween area is stocked often by theme to help spark costume ideas, but Wirth said many shoppers don’t limit themselves to one single section of a store.

“What we do see is people shopping the whole store to put something together,” Wirth said.

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Halloween is also a big time of year for other thrift stores and local costume shops.

St. Vincent de Paul director of retail operations Brooke Trick said Halloween is a big driver of revenue from the thrift stores, which then goes to fund the organization’s charitable initiatives, such as its food pantry and pharmacy.

St. Vincent de Paul stores begin the Halloween season in August, Trick said.

“One of the reasons we roll it out so early is because people get really into (Halloween),” Trick said.

At Make It Up Costumes — formerly Mallatt’s Costumes & Accessories — owner Susannah Jackson said she often spends the first half of October filling many online orders from her store, but later in the month, more and more shoppers come into the 4,000-square-foot warehouse at 1112 Stewart St. to devise their own costumes.

One of the main draws for Make It Up Costumes customers, Jackson said, is the store’s wide array of wigs and professional stage makeup.

“A lot of people will do characters from their favorite series ... they may have the clothes at home, but the wig can really pull it together,” Jackson said.

For shoppers interested in a quick costume, Halloween pop-up stores have also arrived in Madison:

  • Spirit Halloween has West and East Side locations, 53 West Towne Mall #C and 53 East Towne Way.
  • Halloween City has a West Side location, 7333 West Towne Way.
  • Halloween Express has West and East Side locations, 4546 Verona Road and 4634 E. Washington Ave.

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