Alice in Wonderland and an army of undead people have taken over empty retail spaces in Glendale as the Halloween shopping season kicks into high gear.
At least five Halloween costume stores have opened: one at the former Blockbuster Video site on Glendale Avenue, another at the former Mervyns site at Brand Boulevard and Broadway, a third on Broadway near Brand, a fourth on Central Avenue at Lexington Drive and a fifth in Montrose.
The temporary shops are part of an annual craze worth big dollars. Americans will spend nearly $5.8 billion this year on Halloween costumes, decorations and candy, according to the National Retail Federation.
Managers say recent hit movies are also driving the costume market.
Arleen Torres, manager at Halloween Adventure on Glendale Avenue, said Alice in Wonderland is hot. So are her evil siblings, Malice in Wonderland and Wicked Alice, who sport traditional Alice wardrobes but wield weapons or caked blood.
Girls continue to be drawn toward skimpy costumes, Torres said.
Rob Collins, at Halloween America in the Glendale Galleria, said he is seeing interest in "Johnny Depp-style Mad Hatters."
Halloween America shopper Alan Escuro of Eagle Rock said he likes the scary stuff, though he got a laugh from friends when he put sunglasses on over a polar bear mask. What is he going to be this year?
"I kinda like the polar bear," he said.
Both Torres and Collins said they plan to double or triple the size of their staffs as the holiday nears, employing between 25 and 35 people. Collins said he already has 600 resumes, with people dropping by to ask about openings every day.
Collins said women seem to drive the decisions in the adult market, with their husbands or boyfriends playing along.
"Guys will say, 'I'll be the sailor if you want to be the sailor girl,'" Collins said.
Characters from "Toy Story 3" and other costumes with a unified theme are popular with families. On weekends, Torres said, her shop is offering makeup demonstrations to show people how to be more creative than merely donning a ready-made costume.
Dick Greco, who works on special effects for films, is on staff at Halloween Adventure and taking it seriously. Asked to spend part of a shift outside attracting customers, he dressed up as Michael Myers, the slasher from the "Halloween" movies.
It worked a little too well, he said.
"I had to ditch my knife and start waving," Greco said.