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Upscale macabre

Halloween decor has gone chic. And it's no longer just a one-night affair.

October 18, 2008|David A. Keeps | Times Staff Writer

For HOME decor retailers, Halloween may be the silver lining in this month's economic storm clouds. In a survey released by the customer loyalty firm Corporate Research International, 75% of consumers who participate in Halloween activities said they plan to spend about the same amount or more than they did last year.

"It's not a one-night thing anymore," said Chief Executive Mike Mallett, who added that he started buying Halloween goodies in September. "It's a decorate-and-celebrate holiday that grows massively year after year."

Carol Liguori, director of merchandising for Grandin Road, said the catalog and online retailer offered nearly 100 fall decorating products and shipped $579,000 worth of fall decor (including Thanksgiving items) to Southern California alone. "And when the holiday falls on a weekend, you can expect to see an increase in sales by 25%," Ligouri said.

Pottery Barn entered the Halloween market earlier this decade and has raised its count of offerings to 30, nearly double that of last year, said Laurie Furber, senior vice president of merchandising.

"We see searches on our website as early as July," she said.

Gone are the days of cardboard skeletons and plastic jack-o'-lanterns. These days, Halloween decorations are made from natural fabrics, glazed ceramics, etched glass, lacquered wood and cast metal. At Gardena-based Z Gallerie, a new Halloween collection is released each fall and often stays on the shelves past Christmas.

"A lot of it can be used all year long," said marketing spokesman Gordon Andahl. "Many items from our black and glittered Halloween collection would work great for a black-and-white-themed party or New Year's."

In Los Angeles, specialty shops such as Blackman Cruz and Obsolete do a year-round business with macabre designs and objects of curiosity, a trend that has gained traction nationwide.

"We're in a time very much like the Victorian period, a new turn of the century, where darkness has bled into everyday normalcy and the skull is a fashion motif," said Lika Moore, a designer for Blackman Cruz's BC Workshop collection, which includes bronze skulls and bats. "Catalog companies are catching up on goth in a very strategic way. They're savvy enough to know that consumers want better designs and materials."

Financial and environmental concerns also have changed the Halloween market, Pottery Barn's Furber said.

"People want to invest in stylish things that have lasting value," she said. "They don't want to buy stuff that they will throw away. There's a big opportunity when the economy gets tough. The feel-good holidays make you happy to throw parties and decorate with products that put a smile on your face."

Especially if those cocktail glasses and napkin rings sport grinning skulls.

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david.keeps@latimes.com

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ON THE WEB

For more Halloween shopping ideas, including inexpensive knockoffs of designer skeleton plates, look for the expanded photo gallery online at latimes.com/home.

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