What's in a trend? For beauty supply mecca Ricky's NYC, it's a lot less about sifting through data and much more about paying attention to the world around you. "We look at the things that make common sense," says president Richard Parrott, who oversees the city's 27 pop-up stores, as well as 33 bricks-and-mortars in New York and Miami. "Popular culture, news headlines, the music industry, the greater Halloween community--this is a year-round business for some people," he says coyly. To stay on top of things, Ricky's considers "anything that's a source for fashion trends and what's popular today."
With Americans expected to drop $7.4 billion on candy, costumes, and decorations this year, according to the National Retail Federation, Halloween is big business. A whopping $2.8 billion goes toward costumes alone, and $350 million goes toward pets. For the past 25 years, Ricky's, the funky beauty store chain known for neon wigs and glitter, has had its finger on the pulse of Halloween, so when it comes to spotting what's hot this season, nobody does it better.
Finding the Trends
"Sure, we have buyers and district managers that follow and suggest trends," Parrott says, but all decisions are made in-house and he has the final say. Also, unlike most startup managers, Parrott goes with his gut. "There are no algorithms to speak of," and "I don't think there's any math. It's just simple trend forecasting," he says.
There is a method, however, and like many things, it begins with the customers. "It starts with a request," Parrott says, and "once I get a certain amount of them, I pay attention and say we're not carrying enough." A team member will gather research, which Parrott will use to piece together its origins and how it's playing out across other industries.
As an example, Parrott knew American Indian-inspired looks would be big this year since braids and fringe had come back in vogue. "We realized the braid is the most popular hair style, and in the art world, a lot of Aztec prints are popular," he says. "What we're trying to do at Ricky's is identify the trends and show the looks and themes that society is requesting which may not be in front of your face."
Typically employees visit other retailers to see how those products play into a theme. They also stake out the competition and look abroad to Europe and Asia. "Having the information is one thing, but knowing when to say 'Something is important, let's play on that' is someone's gut," Parrott says. And this comes from experience, he adds.
"Certain things you see from time to time that you swear will be popular and they flop," he says. "Other things are basic and turn out to be blockbuster hits, like the Spider Dog costume last year." The YouTube video clocked in so many views that when Parrott finally saw it, he decided to order some costumes. Immediately, they sold out.
Parrott reviews past sales to get a sense of what to restock, and he keeps a list of core items, or "things that sell every year no matter what, such as princess and pirate costumes, Venetian masks, and orange jumpsuits." But he says that's not what makes Halloween exciting. What stands out more are the topical or controversial items, and those are the ones that require taking risk-taking, not unlike fashion.
Last year, Ricky's stocked up on anime costumes, which didn't translate so well into sales. Another flop: a huge zombie make-up push. "That's not like selling $50 a package," Parrott says. Now Ricky's Walking Dead looks are more about the costumes, not the make-up.
Here are three trends Parrott predicts will take off this year:
Game of Thrones
Blame Khaleesi: the mega-popular HBO series has incited shoppers to request renaissance and fantasy-themed costumes for years, but they were always too cost-prohibitive. Now that cheaper versions are available, Parrott expects them to fly off the shelf.
"This is one of the most popular make-up techniques that we've seen," says Parrott of the eye-catching Day of the Dead look.
Who says kids should have all the fun? With National Cat Day trending again this year, even felines are getting to play dress up. "Pets are just a natural extension of the kid costume trend," says Parrott. Plus, "they're members of the family."