It’s ooh la la at Boo La La

Brian Morten – Vancouver Sun – October 6, 2010

Kelly Hood (Left), Laurie Sluchinski (Right), and Chris Bolton show off costumes from Boo La La as the busy Halloween season approaches. About half the annual revenue – from sales and rentals – comes during the Halloween period. Photo by Wayne Leidenfrost, PNG

With Halloween on the horizon, a North Vancouver specialty costume company is gearing up for its annual explosion in business.

And after a quarter of a century as Carol’s Costume Corner, a new owner is rebranding the store as Boo La La!

“Most people look to celebrate the special moments of their lives,” owner Laurie Sluchinski said in an interview about why people rent or buy elaborate costumes at other times of the year as well. “Perhaps it’s the 1970s disco craze, where they all need disco costumes. And birthdays ending in zeros are huge, 40, 50, 60 and on.”

There’s also a lot of business with local theatre groups.

As for selection, the store offers 15,000 costumes, vintage accessories and other items for sale or rent, including Astro Naughty, Billie Jean Jacket and Pants, Alice Hat and Collar, Count Chocula and theme clothes from just about every age and corner of the world.

There are accessories galore, including wigs, hats, masks, fangs, petticoats, contacts, mustaches and hairspray.

Costumes are either made by local designers or brought in from design houses across Canada, the U.S. or internationally.

Sluchinski, who said about half her sales are during the Halloween period, bought Carol’s Costume Corner a few years ago and set about putting her personal stamp on it.

For starters, there’s not only a new website, logo and name, but a greater emphasis on sales rather than rentals. And online shopping is expected to be an increasingly big factor for a company with a growing customer base across Canada.

Sluchinski’s store only caters to adults -no kids or pets.

“By selling costumes, we’ve opened up a wider demographic,” she said. “Five years ago, it was mostly rentals. Now it’s about 50-50. And that’s because of lifestyle. People often like dressing up and making YouTube videos. They want [the costumes] for many occasions.

“We all want to be a star.” Sluchinski, who has three permanent employees (increasing to 17 over the Halloween period), just launched a new website to allow Boo La La to grab more national and international sales.

“[E-commerce] is a great unknown, but I expect an extra 40-to 60-per-cent increase in revenue. And it’s been doing great. The sales are beginning to come in.”

Sluchinski — who has been fond of playing dress-up since she was a child and completed a university degree in women’s studies before heading to Montreal for fashion school — said she has seen sales grow about 10 per cent a year since buying the store.

Her total revenues for 2009 were about $450,000, she added.

The recession didn’t have much of an impact on her business, she said, because “I’m in a luxury-based industry. No one needs costumes.”

Her advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs?

“Number 1 is always be flexible. Curveballs will come at you every day and plans need to be flexible and fluid. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

“And don’t listen to the naysayers. Stay positive.”

bmorton@vancouversun.com

BOO LA LA

Website boolalacostumes.com

Previous name: Carol’s Costume Corner

Number of costumes and accessories available for sale or rent: about 15,000

Total revenue in 2009: $450,000

Percentage of over-all business during Halloween period: about 50 per cent

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Original Article: Vancouver Sun