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Arts & Culture

Pandemic Supply Shortages Make Halloween Tough For Morris Costumes To Predict

Amy Morris Smith 22sept21.jpg
Courtesy Queens University News Service
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Amy Morris Smith of Morris Costumes in Charlotte.

Toilet paper rolls and hand sanitizer bottles were popular Halloween costumes last year. Supply-chain shortages, remember? This year, according to Charlotte-based Morris Costumes, backups in the supply chain are delaying the arrival of the latest Halloween costumes.

But Morris Costumes — one of the largest costume distributors in the world — ended up with a blockbuster year in 2020, and founder Amy Morris Smith believes Halloween will be big this year, too.

“Last Halloween, it came to life about Oct. 1 and it was just amazing,” Morris Smith said. “But (this year) people have started, first of September, getting ready for Halloween. Falling on the weekend, that's going to be awesome, so we think it's going to be great.”

Although Morris Costumes started making orders for new costumes and decorations last December, she said, supply-chain issues mean some won’t arrive until mid-October. That makes predicting hit costumes in 2021 tough. Morris Smith is banking on perennial favorites, like superheroes.

Regardless, she expects people to buy a variety of items to spook up their yards — fog machines, inflatables, animated statues.

“Props are going to be the biggest thing,” she said. “People are still going to do costumes and they'll probably pick up on the TV characters, the movie heroes, anything they see online that’s funny. But the really big thing will be yard participation with different Halloween effects.”

Because children start watching Superman, Batman and Spiderman as cartoons, she said, and then watch superhero movies as teens and adults, these characters are always popular. Their costumes also come in different sizes for children, teens and adults.

Beyond supply-chain issues, Morris Smith said, this year’s other challenge is retail staff shortages. It’s tough to find people to work in the store, and she said she’s hiring.

Morris Smith and her husband started the family business in their basement in 1962, originally crafting gorilla suits for state and county fairs, carnivals and shows. Their son and daughter, Scott Morris and Terri Bates, now own Morris Costumes, and the online portion recently was sold to Oriental Trading Co., a wholesale supplier of novelties and holiday supplies.

For Morris Smith, who manages the retail store, watching small children as they enter the store at 4300 Monroe Rd. is one of her favorite parts of the job. She can never predict how they’ll react.

“There is such a difference in small kids,” she said. “They come in the front door and something's growling or something's shooting foam out of its mouth or fog, and they’re either enthralled with it and loving it, or they're afraid.”

No Local Health Guidance Yet On Halloween 2021

The Mecklenburg County Health Department has not yet distributed Halloween guidance for 2021. In 2020, the department advised against avoiding large crowds and festivals; taking candy from bowls where contents were touched by others; wearing a mask; staying 6 feet apart; regularly washing hands and surfaces; and avoiding crowded indoor bars and restaurants. In September 2021, the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners removed an indoor mask-wearing exemption for religious services.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to decorate their homes with holiday-themed items and banners. It recommends virtual celebrations as a safe way to do holidays. Outdoor celebrations are OK, given 6-foot social distancing and mask-wearing.

Kiarra Murrill is a student in the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte, which provides the news service in support of local community news.