Ethan Faulkner roams the aisles of the Dallas Goodwill with a pair of plastic Wolverine claws on his hands.
The 5-year-old is piecing together a Halloween costume as he goes. He already has a Superman outfit and the claws will add a creative twist no one else has.
His younger sisters, twins Lindsey and Annabelle, are in the process of doing the same.
"I'm a witch!" Annabelle said, bounding up to Goodwill's store manager Kathleen Disney.
More precisely, a witch-cat. She and her sister found cat masks they will add to their costumes. Lindsey will be cat-Batgirl.
Their mother, Mary Jo Faulkner, loves the annual costume-hunting trip.
"We love coming here because it's a lot bigger selection than the regular stores," she said. "They even have new packaged stuff."
The whole Faulkner family found their costumes at Goodwill. Mary Jo plans to be Cleopatra this Halloween and her husband, Jason, a zombie. Mary Jo found the last piece of his costume Oct. 17: a colorful and creepy-looking greenish-yellow skinned monster mask.
Faulkner said they have been buying costumes at Goodwill for years.
"They love coming here," Faulkner said
of her children. "They get to look at everything and see all the Halloween aisles and displays."
The staff at Goodwill have just about as much fun with the season
as the Faulkners. Even Disney is dressed as an island vacationer, with a Hawaiian shirt, a straw hat and huge sunglasses.
Photo by Pete Strong
Malia Conteras and Ethan Howard, both 16 and from Dallas, look through the Halloween hat selection at Goodwill Monday in their search for costume ideas.
Around the store last week, employees were dressed up to provide customers with inspiration. Wandering the sales floor was a hippie (Patsy Hanna), Gandalf from Lord of the Rings (Tim Gonzalez) and a 1950s teenager (Bobbi Daly).
"It's kind of fun to get creative," Daly said.
The store dresses mannequins in costume, too. So far this season the store has sold 60 or more costumes off displays.
Disney said customers shopping in Goodwill are usually looking for something unique and often turn it into an occasion, like the Faulkners do.
The crew at Goodwill prepares all year for Halloween shoppers, with employees combing through donations looking for anything suitable for Halloween decorations or costumes.
"We designate those as Halloween items and they are stored until August and then we just blitz them out here for the next two months," Disney said. "All the way up until Halloween, we are generally unpacking new things."
Of all the holidays, Halloween is by far the most lucrative for Goodwill, but it isn't the only secondhand store to see a bump in business due to costume sales.
Jenny Brown, the owner of Second Time Around in Independence, said fall is a busy time of year for costume buying, with most school homecoming events and Halloween happening in October.
"It started last month," Brown said. "We have a couple racks of costumes. They are selling pretty well. With the variety of items we have, people are able to put together something."
Given national trends, this may be an especially good year for both stores.
According to the National Retail Federation, a retail trade association, a record 170 million people nationwide will be celebrating Halloween, spending an estimated $8 billion; nearly $3 billion of that will be spent on costumes.
Goodwill, like other retail outlets, has recognized the upward trend in Halloween spending and has become adept at organizing merchandise and creating displays -- all while injecting a little holiday "spirit" into the season.
"We really enjoy getting ready for Christmas, too, but Halloween is far and away the most fun season," Disney said.